Australian soccer prodigy Tom Rogic tightens grip on EPL signing

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Daily Telegraph

Most 18-year-old boys are chasing girls, legal beer and fast cars. Tom Rogic is just chasing his dream, and none of that other stuff can get in the way.

The dream is on its way to reality now for the Griffiths youngster, whose midfield talents won him a place at the Nike Academy in the UK, an elite training centre run by the English Premier League.

How hard was the competition? Just the small matter of 75,000 entrants around the world, 100 finalists and only eight places on offer.

Already in just 18 months the Academy has seen eight graduates get a career in the game, and that is exactly Rogic’s dream.

He has already represented Australia at futsal, but now comes the opportunity to make it in the real thing, with a year’s contract that began in June. Rogic’s not hanging around, either – last month he had a trial with Danish club Sonderjyske, where Socceroo keeper Nathan Coe is based.

“The intensity at the Academy is just something else, everything’s faster and sharper,” Rogic said from London.

“But I can feel myself improving all the time. We get treated like professionals and we have to act like one.

“Hopefully if I put in enough I might be lucky enough to stay here and earn myself a professional career in Europe. That’s the dream.”

Rogic is an attacking midfielder, whose favourite player is Cristiano Ronaldo but who models himself on the German playmaker Mesut Ozil.

It’s an unforgiving environment he’s in now – when the Academy squad played QPR a couple of weeks ago, three of the opponents would play in the EPL the following Saturday, and a further five were on the bench.

Ask Ron Smith, the former Football Federation technical director who chose the Australian entrants for the program, about Rogic and one word stands out.

“He’s a match-winner basically,” he said. “He can take people on, create things and score some spectacular goals. I’ve been watching him on and off since he was 12 and there were only ever questions about his physicality.

“Now he’s grown in to his body a bit and there’s not a lot you can pull him up on.”

Actually finding out he had won a place was nerve-racking enough for Rogic, at a massive ceremony in London earlier this year attended by all 100 finalists after a week of trials.

“I’d felt like I had given a good account of myself and if someone like Huw Jennings [the renowned youth coach who runs the Academy] notices you then you must be doing something right.

“When they read out the names and seven places had gone, I just thought, ‘No chance’. Then my name was the last one read out and I just went numb.”

EPL future: Eighteen-year-old Canberra soccer player Tom Rogic won a place at the prestigious Premier League Academy. Picture: Ray Strange. Source: The Sunday Telegraph

EPL future: Eighteen-year-old Canberra soccer player Tom Rogic won a place at the prestigious Premier League Academy. Picture: Ray Strange. Source: The Sunday Telegraph

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