Massimo Luongo has a fellow Aussie in his midst at Sheffield Wednesday, and teenager Harry Lane is determined to one day join him as a Socceroo.
The diminutive 16-year-old from Tweed Heads in northern NSW has been part of the Owls academy setup for over four years and is being monitored by Joeys coach Trevor Morgan ahead of the 2021 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
At just 1.6m, the budding schemer says he’s hoping for a growth spurt to give him more of a physical presence but he impressed Morgan on a scouting mission to England in February and his technical qualities are also appreciated by Wednesday’s academy chief Steve Haslam.
Former Owls midfielder Adem Poric, who brought Lane to Hillsborough, claims he’s one of the most gifted he’s seen from the thousands he’s coached at his Total Football Academy on the Gold Coast.
“I’ve seen Massimo around the training ground but we haven’t spoken yet,” Lane said in an accent more Yorkshire than Aussie.
“I think he saw me talking to Trevor Morgan when he was here and he probably put two and two together.
“This is a great club to be at. I’m doing all I can to progress, make my first-team debut and hopefully end up at the top.”
Lane, whose mum Lindsey played water polo for Great Britain, must first transition from schoolboy terms to a scholarship contract, with much of that depending on the trajectory of his physical development.
“The feedback is that I’ve got the ability - it’s just whether my physical side of the game will be good enough,” the teenager explained.
“They say I’m technically as good as an 18-year-old but, physically, not there yet because of my height.
“In my brain I have to be smarter than them (bigger opponents) and that will help me when I am taller.
“You look at a player like (Manchester United’s) Scott McTominay ... he was about 1.70m when he was my age, and I’m not saying I’ll be that tall, but he’s massive now, isn’t he (1.93m).”
“I’m also doing a few more reps in the gym than everybody else (to add bulk).”
Contracted for the next two years at least, Lane was spotted by Poric aged five and it was he who made the introductions to Wednesday and arranged a successful trial.
“Every week you’re fighting for a spot and your next contract but when you love the game you’ll do anything to succeed,” Lane added.
The prospect of breaking through into the Joeys’ setup sets Lane’s pulse racing.
“It’s your dream to play for your country,” he said. “When Trevor Morgan came to watch it was great.
“Meeting him has been really influential and he’s inspired me to where I could potentially be in the next few years.
“He told me to keep working hard on all aspects of my game.”
Morgan, who has been delving deep to source talent from all corners of the globe, said: “Harry’s a very positive, lively character and a very smart and intelligent player.
“It was good to see him in action and I like his attitude and believe he’s developing in the right way.
“Wednesday like him too and he’s one we’re going to continue to monitor and follow.”
Former Young Socceroo Poric, who played 13 senior games for Wednesday during the ‘90s, is emphatic in his assessment of the rookie.
“He’s one of the most gifted kids I’ve seen ... his technique is second to one,” he said.
“He has an excellent goalscoring ratio for a young kid and a small kid.
“You look at somebody like Messi size-wise and then you look at Harry and you understand that when he has that growth spurt and adds some width and strength, I think he’ll make it.
“He’s got something - that’s for sure. At his age, when I had him, he was probably one of the best kids in Australia.
“You need a club there that’s willing to nurture him for the long-term gain.
“I think Australia should call him up and give him a shot now (at youth level).
“If they don’t there’s the risk of losing him to England. He’s already trained with Wednesday at England’s St George’s Park and I know they’re watching him."
Poric, 49, isn’t just impressed with Lane’s passing range and vision, he sees Roy Keane-like qualities in him.
“He’s a driven kid. It’s uncanny ... he’s sitting there with a stature of 5'3" and yet he commands the team as if he was Roy Keane. He just has that aura about him,” he added.
“He’s always around first team players and is asking questions and taking it in. He’s a sponge.
“I think he has a huge chance of being a big time player of the future.”