With Australia’s World Cup qualification attempt resuming this week, Matt Tilby profiles the first Socceroo youngster itching for selection.
Picture this, if you will.
The year 1998. The sun shines brightly over Elland Road. A young Harry Kewell marauding down the left wing for Leeds reaches the corner of the box and begins a mazy dribble. Left, right, left, right. He momentarily loses the ball, but in a split second, he sticks out his left leg and squeezes through the small hole left by the two opposition defenders. He speeds away and manages to put in a cross. A chance out of nothing.
Fast forward twelve years to a humid Autumn night in Brisbane. Half a world away, Tommy Oar picks up on a loose ball and begins to zero in on goal. At the corner of the box, he’s met by two Indonesian defenders. He too cuts in on his right foot, but then begins to zig-zag. Having maybe tried too much, one Indonesian defender knocks the ball out from in front of Oar, but with a flick of his left foot, he sneaks through the hole.
That night, the short, skinny and almost geeky-looking Gold Coast local was making his debut for the Australian national team at just eighteen. He was also wearing jersey number 121, which is all kinds of wrong, but that’s for another time. It was no wonder Oar was being defined as the “next Harry”. His youthful exuberance and his ability to beat a man was the highlight in an otherwise dull Socceroos performance.
The young man, who began his career at Brisbane Roar, was a star for the team in their worst season on record, in the 2009/10 season. He was quickly tipped for bigger and better things, and didn’t last long at the club, being snapped by Eredivisie club FC Utrecht. Along with fellow Socceroo hopefuls Michael Zullo and Adam Sarota, Oar was signed on a massive 5 year deal. Unfortunately for him, his time in Holland hasn’t all been rosy. Making his debut for Utrecht in the Europa League, the young Australian would once again face a baptism of fire, having been brought on in the last twenty minutes at Anfield against Liverpool. But that’s as far as Tommy’s dream run would go, as new manager Jan Wouters didn’t see Oar in his first team plans, while Zullo and Sarota were given their chance.
This was a huge shame for the young man, who had Australian fans salivating at the prospect of a tricky winger finally making an impact for the national team. While Kewell was in the team at the same time, age had got the better of him. His pace had deserted him, while he moved into a more central striker’s role, leaving his left wing position open.
Meanwhile, Oar’s selection for the Australian U/21 team for the FIFA U/21 World Cup last year was fitting for a player who has persevered in tough conditions. Better yet was his goal in the last minute against Ecuador – a stunning 30 metre free kick to grab a point. Despite the Young Socceroos going home early, Oar wouldn’t go home empty handed – his strike won Goal of the Tournament.
With the arrival of new Socceroos coach Holger Osieck, Oar has seen his chances of regular selection ahead of the 2014 World Cup up in the air. Despite being brought in as injury cover for Hull’s Richard Garcia at the 2011 Asian Cup, he saw no game time, and has since been overlooked due to a lack of regular game time at Utrecht. Osieck has urged Oar to seek a move elsewhere, loan or permanent, or else his chance of adding to his 4 caps will fade rather quickly.
It’s rather sad that the young man is being overlooked for the team when thirty-three year old Archie Thompson, who hasn’t scored a goal for the Socceroos in six years, is getting regular call-ups. It’s a common occurrence for the Socceroos, who seem fixated on the glory days, refusing to hand the youngsters of the game a chance. With 11 of the 26 players selected in the Socceroos’ latest squad having taken part in the 2010 World Cup, and 14 of the players aged 28 or over, it’s noticeable that the core of the team has slowed down.
Having just lost to a Denmark side on the weekend, who are no strangers to a nippy midfielder, and yet to face Asian rivals Japan, who contain one of the world’s hottest prospects in the agile Shinji Kagawa, Australia may be on the downward spiral if they can’t fight fire with fire. Mile Jedinak and Neil Kilkenny just aren’t up to the standard, Mark Bresciano’s on the outer, and Michael Zullo, despite starting his career on the wing, has been pushed over to left back, where he’s been hardly setting the world alight.
Could Holger cave in to popular demand and provide Australia with a real shot of energy in the form of Tommy Oar? Only time will tell.