JETS coach Ernie Merrick regards Ron Smith as the best judge of young talent in the country.
Smith was at the helm of the Australian Institute of Sport soccer program during a halcyon period that produced Mark Viduka, John Aloisi, Craig Moore, Lucas Neil, Brett Emerton and Josip Skoko.
Merrick has used the master mentor as a sounding board since the Scotsman’s early days as a coach in the old National Soccer League and values his opinion highly.
Last week he received a text message from the ever understated Smith praising the efforts of Angus Thurgate for the Australian under-19s at the Asian Championships.
It was confirmation of what Merrick already knew.
“From all reports, Gus went really well over there,” Merrick said.
Thurgate, freshened up after starting all four games of Australia’s campaign which ended a game short of qualifying for the 2019 FIFA under-20 World Cup, is likely to be on the bench for the Jets against Sydney FC at home on Saturday.
“It was tough, playing in that humidity, but I feel good now,” he said “I’ve had a good week of training and am ready to go.”
Though disappointed to bow out to Saudi Arabia in the quarter-finals in Indonesia, Thurgate took plenty of positives from his first international tournament, highlighted by scoring his first goal for Australia.
“I loved every minute of playing for my country,” he said. “It was a dream come true. It was good to score my first goal. My parents came over especially for that game. Playing at an under-20 World Cup would have been ideal. We missed out, but I took a lot from the experience. I played mainly as a No.10 and started as a six against Vietnam. We played a possession-based game and I feel like I’m more comfortable in possession now. ”
Thurgate has now switched focus back to the Jets and adding to his seven A-League appearances.
“For me, it is just continuing to work on my game, see where I can improve and get as many minutes as possible,” Thurgate said. “I’m trying to get as many appearances off the bench as I can. It’s tough with the quality we have, but hopefully I can keep improving, and if I get an opportunity, take it.”
The Jets enter Saturday’s round-three clash chasing their first win of the campaign.
“Sydney are always a good team and have quality players across the pitch,” Thurgate said. “If we play the way we know we can play and finish the opportunities we create, I can’t see us having a problem.”
Matt Ridenton sat out an 11 v 11 hit out at training on Wednesday due to a tight calf. Ben Kantarovski played alongside Steve Ugarkovic at the base of midfield. Kaine Sheppard finished the session with ice on his ankle.