Olyroo drain threatens Jets' youth focus

NEWCASTLE Jets coach Gary van Egmond has slammed Football Federation Australia for its handling of the Under-22 squad currently taking part in the AFC Championships in Oman, questioning whether the Jets will continue their focus on recruiting young players.

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Van Egmond said FFA’s decision to take A-League players from their clubs during the season and to send them to an innocuous tournament was a “blight on the game”.

The Jets were missing Connor Chapman, Josh Brilliante, Adam Taggart and Andrew Hoole from their 1-1 draw against the Victory on Friday night, and the coach said the absence of the players, and four from their opponents, affected the match.

“You can help it by not sending players to an under-22 tournament that realistically has no bearing on much,” van Egmond said.

“That probably helps. Personally, it’s a case where it detracts from the game. I don’t think it was a quality game and realistically it could have been a very high quality game if their players were here, our players were here, and unfortunately that didn’t happen.”

The Victory were without Jason Geria, Connor Pain, Nick Ansell and Scott Galloway from the encounter at Hunter Stadium.

“For me it’s a blight on the game, for the supporters and the members who play their money,” van Egmond added.

"You can't tell me its better for the young boys to be playing over there than it is here in the A-League where they’re playing against men each week. It probably would have helped them to create and make a few chances, it would have helped us for sure.”

Van Egmond said he had not complained to FFA about the Olyroo tournament, and hinted the Jets may move away from signing so many promising young local footballers in the future.

“There’s nothing you can do,” he said.

“Probably us and Victory are the ones that look to invest as much as you can with young ones. At the end of the day Newcastle Jets football club has to revisit what they need to do now because if this is the reward, it’s not much of a reward. Western Sydney Wanderers don’t have any players in so they’re not going to be hurt.”

The AFC Under-22 Championships are on in Oman from 11-26 January and the 23-man Australian squad includes five overseas-based players and 18 A-League players.

The Jets and Victory have the most players in the squad, while Adelaide United has three, Perth Glory has two, Melbourne Heart two and Brisbane Roar, Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix all with one player each.

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