Mark Viduka’s long-awaited interview with ESPN’s Michael Caine drew plenty of attention this week, with the former Socceroos skipper taking aim at administrators, youth development, and ex-teammates.
Although Viduka was often reserved in the media, one man who enjoyed a friendly relationship with him was Ray Gatt, formerly of The Australian.
“My first story on him was when he was at Melbourne Knights/Croatia, he’d just started to make a big name for himself. He gave me a great bit of time and then down the years he was always helpful”, Gatt told Box2Box.
“I found him to be really respectful, a deep thinker of the game, and we got along well”.
For many in Australia, Viduka is the embodiment of the late-NSL era that saw a glut of juniors rise from the humble home grown system to the strongest European competitions.
“He’s spoken a lot about going to Melbourne Knights games with his family… he was so typical of the era. The young players coming through, a lot of them came through the good old ethnic clubs”.
The comparative dearth of success today has many wondering where the system has failed. Both Viduka and Gatt pointed to the loss of a competitive youth system, and the closure of the football program at the AIS.
“Mark hit the nail on the head there. Once we lost the AIS, we lost a large part of our heart in terms of the development of young players”.
“I think things started to go downhill and it’s something I hope James Johnson has a really good serious look at (re-instating)”.