Exciting Victory youngsters continue to grow

A forgettable 2020/21 season brought some rare positives for Melbourne Victory as youngsters started to break through and impress.

With the squad struggling in the Isuzu UTE A-League, more youngsters were given a chance, and many impressed.

Jay Barnett made 19 league appearances, while Birkan Kirdar (13 games), Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio (12) and Aaron Anderson (10) also got opportunities.

Lleyton Brooks, Nishan Velupillay and Zaydan Bello also earned chances, while Gianluca Iannucci made his first Victory league appearance late in the campaign.

All eight of the talented youngsters remain under the age of 21.

Velupillay, an attacker who possesses good speed and power, has enjoyed a fine pre-season, scoring in all five of Victory’s games.

The 20-year-old and Brooks caught the eye late last season, with the latter also finding the back of the net twice in the league.

With Kirdar, 19, Lawrie-Lattanzio, 19, and Iannucci, 20, Victory has plenty of young attacking talent in Head Coach Tony Popovic’s squad.

Lawrie-Lattanzio (eight goals, one assist), Kirdar (two goals, one assist), Velupillay (two goals, three assists) and Brooks (one goal, one assist) were part of the Victory squad which reached the A-League Youth Grand Final in 2019/20.

Kirdar has the most Isuzu UTE A-League experience of the quartet, having featured 19 times across the past two seasons.

Barnett, Anderson, Bello and Matthew Bozinovski, who has joined Wellington Phoenix on loan, were also part of that squad.

Since arriving in 2019, Barnett, a tidy central midfielder, has already made 28 Isuzu UTE A-League appearances for Victory.

Anderson had a run of starts towards the end of the previous campaign, while Bello showed good signs during his few chances at right-back.

The youth should give Victory plenty of options and some solid squad depth heading into the 2021/22 season.