Massimo Luongo: Mass Inclusion in Aussie World Cup squad
What a season it has been for Swindon Town midfielder Massimo Luongo. From being an ‘unknown talent’ within the Spurs reserves, to signing for the Robins, then remarkably making the Australian World Cup 23 man squad is remarkable progress. Brendan Hobbs looks back at Massimo’s story…
When discussing the Socceroos preliminary squad for the World Cup I think The Guardian made a very valid point:
“Among the numerous names that were near unthinkable inclusions just 12 months ago are Swindon Town midfielder Massimo Luongo..…”
Yes, Mass is going to be the first Swindon player since Jan Aage Fjortoft to represent his country at a World Cup. He joins a lengthy list of errrm, two, with Alan McLoughlin being the other.
His inclusion certainly adds further interest to this year’s tournament, I for one will now be tuning in to watch the Roo’s knock seven bells out of group opponents Chile, Spain and Holland, with Luongo obviously playing the creative midfield lynchpin and running the show.
Seriously though, he may not get much game time, but with new Aussie coach Ange Postecoglou keen on giving youth a chance I hope he will get at least a few minutes on the pitch.
Luongo had a mixed first season with Swindon, I named him ‘player of season in waiting’ after the first few games – he was imperious in midfield. Oozing class, pinging passes, belting shots and scampering, as the Beatles would say, here, there and everywhere.
He was pretty much ever-present during his first full season of first team action – and perhaps it was this feat alone that cost him his form mid -season. After a few years of reserve football and one loan spell, being pitched headlong into the muddy battlefield that is League One was some adjustment to make. And the draining drudgery of playing 40 plus games certainly left his class reservoir leaking slowly – and his qualities severely haemorrhaged due to sheer exhaustion.
Towards the end of the season his form picked up, just at the right time to impress any Aussie coaches that might be watching. A call-up was just reward for a fine season in which he performed admirably. He may have ‘disappeared’ in the odd match or two this season but like some professional assassin he’d always appear at the critical moment, hefting his immense quality before delivering the killing stroke.
His recent fresh incision through the skin of Preston North Ends defence stands out as a quality moment for me – freeing up an eager Miles Storey to fly in on goal. A Harley Street Surgeon would have been proud of the curve and trajectory of the perfect puncture he created.
The Guardian article linked above also raises a valid point, probably unintentionally, but it is an important note that perhaps other players should heed. Mass was playing regularly for Spurs reserves and if he decided to stay would he have been selected for the WC? Probably not, it was a brave move for him to accept the permanent move to Swindon, but he is now reaping the rewards for that risk. His good form plus the chance to showcase his obvious talents on a more ‘available’ platform has got him his place, but it might also grant him further advancement – a move to a Championship club this summer is not out of the question surely? (Crikey, I hope not!)
He left a Premier League reserve team a raw but talented rookie and has emerged less than a year later a more street-wise, battle-hardened midfield dynamo – far from the finished article but career wise, he’s in a much better place. He left his big-league ego at the door, (not that he probably had one) rolled up his sleeves and got stuck in – learning a great deal on the way and most importantly, he developed, not stagnated.
The question of stockpiling youngsters by Premier League teams is quite a topical one, how many of those who plied their trade in the reserve league now find themselves without a club this summer? Sure players can’t force their employers to let them go, or push through loan moves to other clubs, denying them the shop window they crave, but the ‘Mass Example’ shows that squandering time in reserve teams (or maybe B teams in the future) damages a players development and who knows, maybe costing them a place in a World Cup squad?
Playing in a World Cup is not necessary the hallmark of a great player, if Haiti had qualified for a previous tournament I might have written a similar article about Lescinel Jean-Francois, who to be fair, is not in the same ball park as Mass.
So it’s lucky that Swindon’s previous two representatives in World Cup Tournaments have often been revered as legends by the faithful, I have a sneaky feeling that if Mass stays around long enough he could be seen in the same light as mighty Jan the Man and Alan Mac.