Melbourne Victory’s U23 and U20 sides will prepare to kick off their NPL3 campaign this week as the senior Academy squads begin their seasons.
After the heartbreak of last season’s campaign, going down to Kingston City in the promotion playoff, Victory will be undoubtedly eyeing promotion as Joe Palatsides’ group look to build upon last season.
But the Head of Academy and NPL U23 boss feels the standards that are being set at Academy level will drive his side to success this campaign.
“I don’t think the goal has change for us too much. We’re very strong about the development of each individual player and that not only goes for the U23 players but the U20 players as well,” Palatsides said.
“This season, we’ve done things a bit differently where we have brought them in together and we’ve treated them as one group rather than two separate groups so we thing that will push everyone and be beneficial to the competition we want to breed in the team.
“We saw it last year that age is just a number. Tony Popovic picked three boys from the Under 18’s to be part of pre-season and some of the pre-season friendlies and camps so it just shows that every player needs to be ready for their opportunity and perform the best they can, week in, week out in any competition they play in.
Victory’s top scorer in 2022 was Adem Duratovic with nine goals in the campaign but Palatsides believes the talented young brigade of players have the potential to shine this season.
“I think there’s a lot of players to be excited about,” he said.
“Adem definitely had a good campaign last season but it was more about how the team brought him into the game.
“He’ll look to continue what he did last season with the squad but also Tomasso Minutoli who had a really good year with the U20’s last season. Also the boys who have already been around the A-League environment like Jordi Valadon, Alex Menelaou, Ryan Lethlean, Linus Burke, Josh Inserra, Kane Razmovski they’re just some of the players of a big group that we’re really excited about and will continue to push to be involved at A-League level in the future.”
The younger brigade will be taking up the lionshare of minutes however and Palatsides believes the group has what it takes to be more consistent in 2023 and gain automatic promotion.
“Although it’s labeled as Under 23’s, this group’s average age is around 18 so we’ve gone a lot younger because we believe in developing this group,” he said.
“So we always set out to win every game, whether we do or not will depend on our performance but we also know that there’s a bigger picture for our teams.
“We want to play good football. We want to develop these players and we want to make sure that they are ready for A-League football and be able to train, play and take that opportunity when its earned by them in the first team. That’s our ultimate goal.”
Victory’s NPL3 season kicks off on Sunday 19 March against newly promoted Beaumaris at Epping Stadium. Kick-off 3.00pm.
Melbourne Victory NPL3 Squad