School's out for Gersbach – now for the big test!

While he was enjoying a dream debut season for Sydney FC, Alex Gersbach says his performance off field didn’t quite match his exploits on it.

Gersbach played 22 games for the Sky Blues last season, culminating in Jose Mourinho heaping special praise on the teenager who impressed during a post-season friendly against Chelsea. 

But the first year of professional football coincided with his final year of high school, and the 18-year-old said his studies suffered as a result of the heavy workload.

“It was tough, I was doing my HSC at the start of last season just when I made my debut and started playing,” he said.

“It was really difficult fitting both in but I think soccer took the first choice, and it might have shown a bit in my results.”

Gersbach said he is looking to play more regularly this season, especially after he missed out on crucial finals games in 2014/15.

“I felt like it was a good season but it’s important this year that I back that up, and I really cement that spot at leftback, and that is what I’m hoping to do,” Gersbach said.

“My goal at the start of last season was to play as many times as I can. I wasn’t expecting Arnie to show as much faith in me, but I’m really happy he did, and I’ve just got to go and get better and better this year.

“I missed out on few games towards the end of the season, and I missed out on the Semi-Final and the Grand Final, so this year hopefully I can cement my spot and carry that through to the finals and just really try and play my part for the team.”

Gersbach missed Sydney FC’s opening game of the new campaign against Melbourne City because he was away on national team duty helping the Young Socceroos qualify for the 2016 AFC U-19 Championship.

The ambitious defender also has his hopes set on a spot in Aurelio Vidmar’s Olympic squad when the team competes in the Rio qualifying tournament in Qatar next year.

“Of course the Olympics next year in Rio, I’d love to be a part of that,” he said. “It’s going to be hard work but if I could force myself into that team it would be great.”

Meanwhile the Australian Institute of Sport graduate said that strengthening the defensive side of his game was a main focus for him this season.

“I think physically I’ve improved and my attacking as well,” he said.

“Andrew Clark, the strength and conditioning coach, really helped me out last year, and got me fit and got me strong. I’ve got to maintain that now and probably work a bit on my defensive qualities.

“Maybe let the attack take a back seat for now, and just listen to Arnie’s advice he’s a great coach.

“I think it’s about picking and choosing my moments, and just being more solid in defence. You don’t want to let go of that attacking side and I’ll try and keep that up too.”

Con Stamocostas is an Australian football writer. Click here to see more of his work and check out the latest episode of his A-League Snobcast with co-host Rob Toddler.