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EDITORIAL: Verbeek must cap Newcastle superkid Inman ahead of Scotland

EDITORIAL: Never have such expectations befallen an Aussie teenager since Harry Kewell was breaking through at Leeds United.

Yet, while he's destined to make his Premiership debut at just 18 next season, Brad Inman's name wouldn't register for even the most devoted Aussie football fan.

The Adelaide-raised midfielder was given his reserve-team debut by the former Newcastle Jets coach Richard Money at just 16 and maintained his progress this season to be named the Wor Jackie winner as the Toon's Young Player of the Year just last week.

And like Kewell at the same age, Australia risk losing this 18 year-old to one of the home nations.

Inman has already played for Scotland U19 and been identified by national team boss Craig Levein as part of a group of Scotland-qualified 'foreign' teenagers to accelerate into his senior squad.

However, Pim Verbeek, as a parting gift to Australia, can still secure Inman for the Green & Gold by involving him in his World Cup squad.

Whether it is as part of a train-on list, or as a fully-fledged member of the senior squad, Verbeek must be thinking seriously about taking Inman to South Africa to lock in his international commitment.

The Dutchman has already been able to convince Shane Lowry, the Aston Villa defender, to reject the Republic of Ireland to pledge himself to Australia and the prospect of finding a solution to the Inman dilemma will now be occupying his thoughts.

It's not certain that Verbeek will include a 'train on' shortlist for his South Africa squad, though if that's the only way to involve Inman in Australia's plans, then it should be made a priority. The 2006 list of Stuart Musialik, Kristian Sarkies, Kaz Patafta and Neil Kilkenny proved a blow-out - but I would back Verbeek and his No2 Henk Duut to take a more serious and considered approach to a similar 2010 selection.

No media favourites, no political A-League selections, as he has shown during his reign, Verbeek's choices would be based only on talent and projection.

Inman would be a must, while a few miles down the road, Matthew Fletcher at Sunderland would also have to be under consideration.

Fletcher's progress on Wearside has been overshadowed by fellow striker Ryan Noble, but Kevin Ball and his academy staff at Sunderland have high hopes for the Aussie centre-forward. Still only 17, Fletcher has tasted reserve-team football this season after a prolific campaign with the U18s.

Further north, the McGowan brothers have Hearts boss Jim Jefferies excited. Eighteen year-old Dylan is now a regular with the Jambos' senior squad on match day, while Jefferies is at Ayr United's Somerset Park every chance he gets to check on Ryan's progress on-loan. Ryan is Hearts' reigning Young Player of the Year and like Inman, has been identified by Scotland as a potential future cap.

On the continent, 18 year-old midfielder Adrian Ucchino has made great progress at Serie BFrosinone this season. The Sydney-born player has made the senior bench several times this season and attracted enquiries from Italy youth chiefs about his international qualifications.

Tommy Oar, now of FC Utrecht, does deserve serious consideration - but I would argue Matthew Leckie, the Adelaide United striker, was an even greater revelation last season. What has most impressed is the way the Melbourne-raised teen has handled the step up from State competition football, to the A-League and onto the Asian Champions League. The way he's moved through the gears so smoothly suggests he is destined to play successfully at a far higher level.

And Inman apart, if Verbeek really fancied leaving his mark before taking his job in Morocco, he could invite Reece Caira to train with the squad when they come together in Australia. Banned from the game for a year after pursuing a dream move to Aston Villa, Verbeek could begin the process of rebuilding the relationship between the Caira family and Football Australia by having young Reece train with his players before the big Melbourne send-off against New Zealand.

There's any number of great young players Verbeek can fill his train-on list with next month, but it must start with Inman. With a Premiership debut a matter of months away, in both footballing and commercial terms, it's critical for the sport in Australia that he isn't lost to another nation.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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