NEWCASTLE Jets youngster Connor Chapman is looking to gain as much experience as possible playing alongside Dutch defender Kew Jailens as he sets his sights on a dream move abroad.
The Jets currently sit bottom of the table without a win and without a goal, but their back-line has been a shining light thanks to the blossoming partnership between the two centre-backs Jailens and Chapman.
Newcastle have kept two cleansheets in their opening three games and have only conceded twice, the least in the league.
Chapman, an Austalian U20 international, heaped praise on the influence Jailens has had on the defence and by his side.
“He’s played for the Netherlands, he’s played for AZ Alkmaar and other quality teams,” Chapman told au.fourfourtwo.com.
”The leagues he’s played in and the players he’s played with…for me to learn from him is great at this point of my career.
“The experience he brings is invaluable and it’s a great thing to have next to me.”
A NSW native, Chapman was courted by several A-League clubs during his time at the Australian Institute of Sport where he captained their squad.
But it was his relationship during his time in Canberra with then-AIS coach Gary Van Egmond that saw him opt for a move to the Hunter.
“I thought that Newcastle would provide me with a greater opportunity to play regular first team football,” he said.
“They have a proven track record of giving younger players a go, and knowing Gary from the AIS meant that I knew how he liked to set up and play football.
“It was also important that he knew me as a player and as a person from my time in Canberra.”
Chapman made his A-League debut just a month after his 17th birthday, and having just turned 19 he has established himself as an important figure in the Jets’ backline.
“Obviously I was hoping to get my chance in the first team sooner rather than later, like all young players.” Chapman said. “It probably came a bit sooner than I expected, but I was determined to make the most of it.
“I probably made a few mistakes through nerves early on, but you learn from that and it helps when your team-mates and coaches show faith in you.”
Chapman’s calmness and composure on the ball belies his young years, evidence perhaps of some of his earlier years being spent in a central midfield position.
“I enjoy bringing the ball out from the back line and being a bit more than just a defender, although of course that is my first job.” Chapman said.
“Defenders these days need to be able to start attacks from the back – it’s just about knowing when is the right time to go forward and when to stay back.
“Decision making like that comes through experience, and I’m really lucky to have had more than most players in my position at my age.”
Chapman was a part of the Young Socceroos squad that participated in the recent FIFA U20 World Cup in Turkey, playing in all three group stage matches.
His development was also illustrated by his selection in the inaugural A-League All Stars game against Manchester United in Sydney, where he made a cameo off the bench.
“It was an amazing experience to see those guys up close and play against them in front of over 80,000 people,” said Chapman.
“Not many 18 year olds can say they have done that, and I learnt a lot from that experience.”
With speculation over the future of current Socceroos, including the defensive pairing Lucas Neill and Sasa Ognenovski, and new Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou renowned for his faith in youth, a senior call-up for Chapman in the near future is very possible.
And he could be alongside his long-term central defensive partner at youth international level, ex-Melbourne Heart player Curtis Good,currently with English Premier League club, Newcastle United.
But while Chapman is ambitious, he's also level-headed about his future.
“Every player wants to play at the highest level they can, and that means Europe,” said Chapman. “But I’m not in a hurry.
“I feel that right now I’m improving every week and it will happen for me at the right time.
“I’m just concentrating on achieving small goals one-by-one, and so far I’ve been able to do that – AIS selection, A-League debut, playing at the Under 20’s World Cup.
“If I’m fortunate enough, hopefully make it to Europe.”