Melbourne City’s academy side made the long trip up the highway to Shepparton this past weekend, shipping two late goals as they played out a 3-3 draw with the Goulburn Valley Suns on a freezing Saturday night.
The three-hour bus ride from the City Football Academy to Shepparton represents one of the longest road trips City’s academy players will undertake during the NPL Victoria season, but for City’s dynamic winger Gianluca Iannucci the clash with the Suns represented a return to his regional roots.
“I started in Cobram in just a little junior association,” Iannucci recounted as he meandered around the newly renovated John McEwan Reserve before kick-off.
“My dad, my uncles, everyone around me played. So, it’s pretty much how I got into the sport.
“It was the Cobram junior soccer association where I played until I was 12-years-old.
“At 12 I played in the Victorian schoolboys’ team, from there I went to the Skillaroos and then at 14 I played here, at the Goulburn Valley Suns.
“I spent a season here, played for the Vic country team and then after that, I went to Melbourne City but was too young. Then I played for Bulleen until 2017, when I played U20s at Melbourne City.”
His resume already dotted with appearances with Victorian representative sides, Iannucci has been a frequent target of praise from City Head of Academy Joe Palatsides in his time in Bundoora and was recently a part of City’s A-League side’s tour of India.
The type of player – such as Daniel Arzani and Ramy Najjarine – that City’s academy is increasingly specialising in producing; Iannucci is an attack-minded winger that relishes the prospect of taking on and beating his defender before cutting the ball inwards towards goal.
The 17-year-old featured off the bench in City’s 2017-18 Y-League grand final loss to Western Sydney Wanderers in January and was dubbed “The Kid from Cobram” by Fox Sports commentator Brenton Speed on social media during the contest.
— Brenton Speed (@BrentonSpeed) February 3, 2018
Coming from an area more traditionally seen as a hotbed of Australian Rules rather than football talent, Iannucci described his experience of breaking into junior sides traditionally dominated by players from metropolitan Melbourne.
“It wasn’t overly difficult,” Iannucci explained.
“Just more, coming from regional Victoria, I hadn’t seen the quality from players in Melbourne, so I never really knew what was out there.
“And because the quality wasn’t that high in the country it was easier to stand out. Going to try and get into representative teams I didn’t really think much of it; I didn’t think I was going to make the first representative team I made.
“After that, you sort of get to know all the other players and you sort of get to understand where you fit in with stuff. At the beginning, it was sort of just like, give it a go, and then I started making a few of the representative teams and went from there really.
“I was really shy, so I never really spoke to anyone. So, no one really knew where I was from until I was in the team. By then, I guess they were surprised because not many players from the country do get into these representative teams and play football, everyone’s really from the city.”
Iannucci has now set himself the ambitious task of breaking into the senior A-League side of Warren Joyce as a 17-year-old, even though the youngster faces a rather unique challenge compared to his older teammates.
“Ideally (breaking into the senior side) this year, but, if not, I want to get looked at for next year especially. This year I just sort of want to see the level, just get used to the level that it’s all at when I’m training,” he said.
“Next year I’d really like to be giving them a good shot to make the bench, make the matchday squad.
“They’re (City’s A-League side) training five teams a week. I miss the Wednesday session because I’m at school and then Thursday and Friday I’m with the senior’s boys at the NPL.
“I think eventually everyone wants to go to Europe. Clubs in Europe, big clubs in Europe, big leagues, play for the national team, all that sort of stuff. I just want to play with and around quality all the time.”
Photo Credits: Melbourne City