St Andrew’s College footballer Riley Caswell is one of two Christchurch United stars set to get an invaluable taste of professional football at Sydney FC, the glamour club in the A-League.
Caswell and St Thomas’ Hamish Cooper, who both turned 17 last month but already play for the Christchurch United first team, have been invited to train with the Sydney club. Sydney FC were last season’s A-League minor premiers and losing finalists and won the A-League in 2017.
The opportunity arose through the contacts of Christchurch United head coach Fernando Lambert who coached at Manly United in Sydney for five years. Lambert also spent four months as an apprentice coach at Sydney FC with Robert Stanton, who runs the club’s first team and young league side.
Lambert says that both players have a big potential and the Yaldhurst-based Christchurch United wants to give its players the best opportunities to develop.
“This may not be ideal for our club as they will miss a few games, but our club is focused on developing great players for the future and for New Zealand football, and not just looking at short-term results,” said Lambert.
“This trip to Sydney will show our youngsters the next level they need to be aiming for and what is required in a professional environment.”
Caswell headed over on Sunday to train with the Sydney first team, which is the feeder team for the A-League squad and regularly trains with the club’s superstars.
The central defender feels he has earned this opportunity with his performances in Christchurch United’s first team.
“I’m definitely excited and slightly nervous, but I’m grateful to have the opportunity to travel across to Australia,” said Caswell.
“It is a great opportunity to experience what football is like in other countries and to compete against top players”
Cooper will go over the following week to spend a fortnight with the Sydney FC academy squad. The right fullback is grateful to Christchurch United and coach Fernando Lambert for giving him first-team experience at 16 and to open the doors to overseas opportunities.
“The move to Christchurch United had definitely paid off because I am not sure if I would have had those opportunities at my previous club,” says Hamish who is pursuing a career in football, as player or coach.
“At Sydney FC, I want to compare myself to the other players my age in Australia to see where I need to improve,” said Cooper.