Australia have been warned to act quickly or face losing rookie Burnley gloveman Kai Calderbank-Park to Wales as the teenager’s international allegiance goes on the line.
Rising up the rankings at Turf Moor amidst the stellar cast of Joe Hart, Tom Heaton, Nick Pope and Anders Lindegaard, the 18-year-old former Wollongong Wolves junior has just inked a new two-year contract extension.
Though both his parents are from Lancashire originally, he has Welsh ancestry and is being watched week-in week-out by their scouts, with a call-up looking likely for the kid who left Australia at 16 to return to his family’s roots.
UK-based former Socceroo turned scout Mark Robertson, whose own son Alex is impressing at Manchester City’s academy, believes FFA need to beef up their talent identification protocols to avoid players like him being poached.
“My biggest fear with things like this is Australia missing out,” Robertson cautioned.
“We have to keep tabs on players like this. I know he’s on the doorstep of Wales but that’s why we have to be more proactive.
“He’s been over here for two years and at some stage he’d have qualified for Australia’s under-17s team but he didn’t get called in.
“Why not get them in and have a look at them so they can get a feel for the Australian set-up.”
In reference to concerted efforts by Joeys coach Trevor Morgan to recruit his own son Alexander, 15, Robertson queried: “Why just do it with Alexander? Is it just because he’s at (a big club) like Manchester City?
“We need to be doing it with all of these players.”
Alexander is eligible for Australia, England, Scotland and Peru, and has already represented the Three Lions at under-16 level.
Calderbank-Park would be a possible fit for the Young Socceroos or Olyroos.
Robertson believes he can be at the vanguard of the next generation of a long line of top Australian keepers.
“He’s at a club with the most goalkeeping depth of any team in the Premier League and to be on the bench with the under-23’s, as he was the other night, is some achievement,” he added.
“It’s the hardest club in the country to break into as a goalkeeper. I watch their under-23s every week and if he’s backing up for these guys, having just turned 18, he’s got big things ahead for him.
“He’s big for his age and I know Burnley’s goalkeeping coach (Billy Mercer) personally and he thinks a lot of him.
“He tells me he has one of the best attitudes he’s seen at the club for a long time and a great work ethic.
“He trains with the first team and it just baffles me how things like this fly under the radar with the Aussie set up.
“The way he’s progressing, the next stop from here is the first team, albeit he has real quality ahead of him to compete against.”