Okon bids to woo rookie Skapetis

Divided loyalties ... QPR striker Peter Skapetis

Australia's Young Socceroos coach Paul Okon has moved to win the allegiance of Queens Park Rangers striker Peter Skapetis as Greece looms as a threat to the loyalties of the Melbourne-born rookie.

Australian football history is pock-marked with instances of players who opted to turn their backs on the green and gold to represent the land of their lineage.

Croatia internationals Ante Seric, Josip Simunic and Joey Didulica are prime examples.

Most recently, Sydney-born Steven Ugarkovic made his international debut for Croatia Under-19's in two games against Czech Republic after catching the eye with NK Osijek's under-20's.

With that in mind, Okon is moving to make sure another one does not get away by naming QPR youth star Skapetis for a camp in London ahead of a tournament in Spain next month.

Okon is looking to rebuild ahead of the next FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand in 2015 after a mixed performance in the 2013 version of the event in Turkey last month where Australia played some flowing football but still finished bottom of its group with just a point from games against Colombia, El Salvador and the host nation.

Former South Melbourne junior Skapetis can garner caps at youth level for both Australia and Greece without being committed to either until he makes a senior appearance in a FIFA-recognised tournament.

He has vowed not to shut the door on Greece at this stage of his career, explaining: "I am glad I've been called up by Australia and I'll be out to impress.

"But I also have the option of Greece and I certainly won't turn my back on them. That said my heart does lie with Australia because it's where I was born and raised. Australia is certainly my first preference at this stage."

However, the Greek FA has been in touch, venturing so far as to invite Skapetis to play for its Under-20's.

"I was meant to actually be playing for them in August also, but the dates weren't set and I didn't hear back from them," he said.

Skapetis, 18, netted a staggering 22 goals in 26 games for QPR's under-18 and under-21 sides last season having been forced to cut short a six-month spell at Birmingham City because of passport issues.

He jetted to Athens and returned with a Greek passport and a contract offer from QPR on his 17th birthday.

He captained QPR to the U-18 divisional final last season, scoring the winner against Huddersfield Town - earning a new one-year deal at Loftus Road as a reward.

In the semi-final he scored a dramatic 91st-minute goal against Leeds United.

A Liverpool fan who models his game on Sergio Aguero and Luis Suarez, he realises that breaking into the first team might not happen this season as Harry Redknapp seeks to take relegated QPR back to the top flight.

But he is hoping that he may, at least, go out on loan to progress his game.

"My aim this year is to get first team experience and then use that as springboard into the top side at QPR. I want to make an impact and turn a few heads," he said.

"The main goal is to be in and around the first team at Loftus Road soon."

Skapetis has had a happy knack of being on the scoresheet every time Redknapp has been in attendance, adding: "I got two in one game that he watched last year, so hopefully he has earmarked me for the future."

He is convinced Redknapp will lead a promotion charge this season, adding: "We definitely have the financial backing at the club and the right coach in charge to give us a great shot."

Source: SBS