15/04/2024

Ethan Alagich and Nestor Irankunda are just two of the young players that have emerged as regular contributors in Carl Veart's squad (Image: Adelaide United)

March 2023 saw Adelaide United extend its imposing undefeated run to 11 games, with an impressive streak of victories.

Not only did Carl Veart’s side pick up three points on four separate occasions in March, three of those games coming against clubs firmly occupying Finals Series spots, but it did in style, scoring 16 goals in the process.

Averaging four goals a game for a month is an impressive feat and it has placed the Reds in a strong position to challenge for a top-two spot, but one thing that went largely unnoticed was the side’s bench in those games.

Throughout the month, the Reds only named a player over the age of 23 on their bench on one occasion. That was veteran striker Hirsho Ibusuki who made his return from injury through the bench due to Luka Jovanovic’s strong form.

In fact, the majority of the Reds’ bench options in the past month are in their teenage years, with Luka Jovanovic, Nestor Irankunda, Musa Toure, Jonny Yull, Panashe Madanha, Bernardo Oliveira, and Ethan Alagich all ranging from the ages of 17-19 and products of the South Australian football system which Carl Veart has worked in for years before assuming his role at Adelaide United.

In comparison, Adelaide United’s opponents in the last month have brought on experienced footballers off the bench such as Morgan Schneiderlin, Amor Layouni, Clayton Lewis, Beka Dartsmelia, and Scott Jamieson, with Melbourne City even having star Florin Berenguer as an unused substitute when the two sides clashed.

The young options Carl Veart is utilising off the bench not only suit his side’s high-tempo game style, which makes opposition teams uncomfortable, especially late in games when fatigue sets in, but it is an encouraging sign to them that their positive performances will be rewarded with minutes.

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Due to injuries and a tight budget, the Reds lack the luxury of experience off the bench, but that has created avenues for the next generation to not only get a chance but to make an impact, which has coincided with the South Australian side’s impressive unbeaten run.

Nestor Irankunda’s excellence off the bench has been the obvious highlight for the Red, but Season Season 2022/23 has seen the emergence of many of his fellow young teammates as capable A League Men players.

The signs were there early in the campaign when Carl Veart handed Ethan Alagich his starting debut against Melbourne Victory, where the young midfielder held his own and has since used that momentum to become a regular fixture in the senior squad.

Due to injuries, Luka Jovanovic and Panashe Madanha have also seen minutes in the starting XI with the former proving that he is a natural goalscorer, even at this level, and the latter getting recognised with a call-up to the Young Socceroos squad.

The players the Reds are now having to field on their bench are not just starting to prove themselves as exciting talents, they are hungry and pushing for starting XI considerations which makes them a dangerous proposition to bring off the bench.

In his post-match press conferences, Carl Veart has regularly admitted that the young players he is backing will not be at their best week in, week out but giving them the opportunity to break into the team is a vital aspect of the club.

After defeating Melbourne City at home, Veart doubled down on the importance of a big game experience for all his young charges involved.

“It’s just where we are as a club, you look at our bench tonight, our eldest on the bench was 21 or 22,” Veart stated.

“That’s where we are as a club, we have a lot of young players so we are going to get a bit of inconsistency across the course of the season based on the young players that are playing and how they are going.

“It is very important for us as a club, it gives our players belief, and it is great exposure for our younger players as well to see the level that they need to be at because the game tonight was at a high level and it is a great experience for the ones that watched it and for the ones that came on and played.”

When a squad relies as heavily on youth as Adelaide United, it is important that that talent is surrounded by the right veteran players.

The development of the Reds’ young brigade is as much a credit to Carl Veart and his coaching team as it is to leadership players like Craig Goodwin, Ryan Kitto, and the rest of the club’s senior players.

Adelaide United now finds itself second on the ladder, with a chance at the top spot possible if Melbourne City’s struggles to put teams away continue.

Another Finals Series will only benefit the aforementioned young players in their development as top A Leagues players and beyond.

Injuries to senior players and suspensions have provided an avenue for the next generation of South Australian players to step up and play a role in a successful team.

With Carl Veart’s winning formula now established, these players will get their opportunities in a high-pressure environment during the last two months of the season, and if the last 11 games are anything to go by, expect them to make noise and turn heads when their numbers get called.

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