Whilst we await the recommencement of the 2019/20 season, now might be as good a time as any – with just a small handful of games left to be played – to revisit the progress of the three City players we predicted were set for a breakout season back in October last year.
Having named Connor Metcalfe, Harrison Delbridge and Ramy Najjarine as the players we considered most likely to take their game to the next level in 2019/20, it’d be fair to say that we had mixed success with our predictions, with outcomes ranging from ‘Almost…’ to ‘What were we thinking?’ to just about everything in between.
Here’s how our ‘ones to watch’ fared over the past seven months:
Metcalfe was the obvious tip for a breakout star at the time, with league-wide media outlets taking note of his impressive form throughout the FFA Cup.
Whilst the midfielder didn’t exactly explode onto the A-League scene, it can hardly be argued that he disappointed those who backed him to take his game up a notch in 2019/20.
Metcalfe was instrumental in the earlier stages of the season, playing a significant part in our FFA Cup campaign and furthered his development with some vital contributions throughout our four-game winning run between Rounds 2 and 5.
The midfielder notched up some decent numbers too, nabbing three goals and two assists from 18 appearances across all competitions, thus achieving the threshold of goal contributions (“five or six”) which we indicated in the initial ‘ones to watch’ article would be a “modest, though respectable, foundation in his first campaign as a starter”.
With Florin Berenguer’s future at the club uncertain, and with Rostyn Griffiths potentially transitioning into a centre-half position as he enters the twilight of his career, Metcalfe has every opporunity to establish himself as permanent fixture on the City teamsheet next year, with his tenacity in the contest and versality as a midfielder both highly-valued by fans.
Certainly a ‘two steps forward, one step back’-type of season for the man with the flowing blonde locks in City’s backline.
Our early call that Delbridge had the potential to establish himself as a bolter for a national team call-up may have seemed a little far-fetched at the time, yet similar sentiments resonated in various headlines just a few months into the season.
Joey Lynch commented for FTBL in November that, “the 27-year-old has since gone on to become one of the best Australian defenders in the A-League,” and that, “Delbridge's lift in quality should now put him in contention for a Socceroos call-up.”
Whilst the defender’s tendency to pick up a red card became a maddening theme of his 2019/20 season, it was the Aussie’s aerial dominance and a rarely-seen willingness to drive forward on tantalising runs through the heart of the opposing midfield that made Delbridge’s early season form so memorable.
Though Rostyn Griffith’s uptick in form after transitioning into central defence all but forced Delbridge from the starting lineup throughout the closing stages of the season, the all-Aussie trio of Griffiths, Delbridge and Curtis Good competing for the two centre-back spots in 2020/21 is a fantastic predicament for the City coaching staff to have when it comes to selection.
And to think we were about to go with Nathaniel Atkinson instead…
It’s difficult to think of a City player who had a more disappointing 2019/20 campaign than young Ramy Najjarine.
With the exception of his Olyroos performances in January, during which the 20-year-old demonstrated his well-publicised potential and decisive impact on games, scoring against Bahrain, Najjarine struggled severely in his senior appearances for City early on and simply didn’t get much of a look-in past that.
Whilst his early under-par form in the FFA Cup was unsettling, it might be that Round 2 Adelaide match which really tipped fans off to the fact that the winger seemed well and truly out of his depth.
Subbed off at half-time, the youngster’s first 45 was a far cry from that of the exhilarating winger that he’d been touted as, with everything from his touch to his shooting completely out of sync.
What can be said for Najjarine is that a recovery next season would speak highly of his resilience and determination as a player given his significant backward-step in 2019/20.