Mulvey’s honest review lifts teenagers to new level
HAVING received a timely reality check from an A-League coach, Western Pride's best under-18 players are on track to play senior football.
With four matches left, Pride is leading the Football Queensland Premier League under-18 competition, six points clear of nearest rivals Rochedale and South West Thunder.
However, former Brisbane Roar A-League premiership winning coach Mike Mulvey said the promising players needed to hear some home truths before playing the quality football they are now producing.
"When I first got hold of them, they were all a very naive group of young players who probably thought that they were the bees knees,'' Mulvey said.
"We've got so many players who think that they are already good enough.
"The reason they think that is because they have been constantly told they are good enough at school and at club.
"That is doing them a disservice as a kid because when the true reality comes, they are not prepared for it.
"So that's why they are growing and that's why they have to get those message right now.''
Mulvey's advice extended a step further.
"You don't want young people to feel that they own a position, and because people have told them they are so good for so long, it tends to happen for them,'' he said.
"It only happens through pure hard work, good coaching and good application.''
Seven unbeaten games after taking over, Mulvey said his players had responded to the call to become much better footballers.
"One of the good things these lads have done this year is accept some criticism and have a very good work ethic,'' the former Roar mentor said.
He said having the right attitude enhanced their ability.
"It's a really important time for them because on the whole, the majority of them are still eligible for the 18s next season,'' Mulvey said.
"They are a very young group.
"They have played against much stronger, physical beings and really coped well by playing good football and that's the key.''
That's why Mulvey said it was important they were given an honest assessment to further their footballing careers.
"From a club perspective, they should be pushing now and thinking now about potentially playing in the first team within the next two to three years,'' the former A-League Coach of the Year said.
Mulvey prefers to see under-18 players, rather than under 20s in the current Football Queensland structure, as the main feeder into senior teams.
"In essence, if you haven't made the first team by under 20, then we're not doing something right with coaching,'' he said.
"So we need to be pushing our under-16s, 17s, 18s into the first team arena and those who have not made the first team, should potentially go on and play for another first team down a league.''
Mulvey, who is also Pride's technical director, is pleased to see four juniors now training with Pride's senior team. They are Patient Lukonga, Darryl Barton, Mibaraka Ruhiraka and Asobasi Cosmas.
"That's indicative of the way that the team is playing but also indicative of the strength of these boys mentally,'' Mulvey said. "Because you can't go and train with the first team unless you've got mental resilience to go with it.''
Under the astute guidance of Mulvey, Pride's under-18 team has scored 29 goals and only conceded nine in their six wins and draw.
The leading goal scorers have been Lukonga with eight, Walter Ninanahazwe (six) and Barton (five).
Mulvey said Lukonga had "very good ability and a strong mentality''.
"He's just got to mature a little bit more in terms of when to pass the ball and when to dribble. He's a very good dribbler and I do encourage that very much.
"Walter has done very well. Darryl has done very well but we have got goals all throughout the whole team.
"We've scored a lot of goals because we are capable of scoring from every position.''
Captain and central midfielder Ruhiraka is leading by example with a "good head on his shoulders''.
Mulvey said after his players took on the coaching advice and have matured, they were heading in the right direction.
"If these boys stick by their guns, in the next two to three years, they will be playing first-team at Pride,'' Mulvey said.
"They have got the ability and attitude comes first.
"The boys are playing some very good football.
"I'm very pleased with the progress that they've made, particularly since they've come back into the club post-COVID.
"They are playing some stronger physical boys and really coping.''
Pride's next game was to be against South West Thunder at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex on Saturday.
However, that has been rescheduled due to a clash with school football competition matches.
While Mulvey's international knowledge has helped the Pride under-18 players, he has also been overseeing their heavy demands with so much club and school football.
"The school has been putting on training sessions, the club has been putting on training sessions and the kids are caught in the middle,'' Mulvey said. "So we've had to monitor the workloads so to not overwork them and the boys have adapted really well.
"They deserve a lot of praise because they work very hard to get where they are.''
He hopes major elite club and school competitions can be organised more fairly in the future.
"Football Queensland and GPS need to get together and sort this out,'' the highly respected international coach said.
The Western Pride senior men tackle competition leaders South West Thunder in Saturday night's 7pm at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.