Twenty year old Australian midfielder Tom Rogic has become Neil Lennon’s latest signing, after impressing during Celtic’s winter training camp in Spain last week. Little is known of Rogic outside of Australia, however there seems to be a consensus that Celtic may just have unearthed a gem from Down Under.
We examine his fledgling career so far to see just how good an investment Rogic may turn out to be for the Hoops.
Originally from the south-eastern Australian capital, Canberra, Tom Rogic has only very recently risen to prominence in his home country, where for the last twelve months he has plied his trade for the A-League’s Central Coast Mariners. However, prior to this, he played in the regional Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Premier League with Australian National University FC and Belconnen United.
He was then selected to compete in “The Chance;” a programme run by Nike aimed at finding promising young players, and eventually giving the best of those an opportunity to compete for a coveted Nike Academy contract. Rogic announced his talent when he reached the final eight stage after 100,000 applicants were considered.
Central Coast Mariners consequently signed him up shortly afterwards and since then Rogic progressed to become a focal point in the Australians’ attacking play. His rise in Australian football has been nothing short of meteoric – he was initially given only a short-term contract by Mariners, yet within months he established himself as a mainstay in the side, scoring five goals in twenty-four appearances.
Since his move to Celtic was finalised – subject to obtaining a work permit on Monday – YouTube videos have been circulating around Celtic fans who generally seem excited by Rogic’s apparent comfort in possession and his eye for goal. Many have yet to discover that much of this ease in control of the ball originates from futsal – a five-a-side variation of football played on a small, indoor court which allows players to develop the ability to improvise and better express themselves, even when in tight, confined parts of the pitch with the ball.
The game, which takes its name from an amalgamation of the Portuguese words meaning “hall football”, has been responsible in assisting in the mind-boggling talent of some of football’s biggest stars in recent years. The Brazilian Ronaldo, Xavi, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo all developed their close-control of the ball on futsal courts, where the ball is heavier and has less bounce to encourage players to keep the ball on the ground and progress via quick passing around opponents.
Rogic himself has played futsal at international level for Australia, first turning out for the Futsalroos back in 2010, and became the first ever Australian to represent his country at international level in both fustal and in football, when he made his debut on 14th November 2012, coming on as a substitute against South Korea.
All in all, the transfer fee of around £400,000 which Celtic paid for Rogic seems to be easily justifiable. Given that English sides Reading and Fulham, Spanish outfits Celta Vigo and Rayo Vallecano, as well as Belgians Club Brugge were all in the hunt for the midfielder, this may represent somewhat of a coup for Celtic. Also, this signing conforms to Celtic’s policy of buying young, unproven – but promising – talent from traditionally “unfashionable” markets where a player’s worth is not inflated unreasonably due to saturation of media coverage, and by all accounts Celtic may find that they stand to make a considerable return on that investment should Rogic’s exploits in Scotland attract attention from other European clubs.
Perhaps more importantly, what Celtic seem to have finally invested in is their missing link: a playmaker – a genuine attacking midfielder with the ability to find a killer pass. At six feet and two inches tall and with good upper body strength, Rogic is well equipped to take on the physical aspect of the Scottish game, and seems cultured enough to be able to hold his own on the European stage.
However, fans may have to be patient at first. Rogic is only twenty years old, and has barely been playing professional football for twelve months. While he seems to have adjusted to the step up at Mariners and international level recently, this is by far the biggest adjustment of his short career. Moving to the other ends of the earth to play in a vastly different style of football, while under the pressure of needing to win every game and playing in front of as many as fifty or sixty thousand supporters may well take some time to get used to.
Fans should be patient with the young Aussie, and they may see him blossom into one of Celtic’s brightest talents.