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EXCLUSIVE: Socceroos legend Robbie Slater explains the radical backwards step young gun Garang Kuol should take to get his career back on track after ‘soul-destroying’ start in Europe
- Garang Kuol was a disappointment at Hearts in Scotland
- 18-year-old was on loan after signing with Newcastle United
- Touted in some circles as the Socceroos’ next big thing
- Robbie Slater stressed game time is key going forward
- Suggested playing in under-23s squad at St James’ Park
Former Socceroo Robbie Slater has called for Garang Kuol to return to Newcastle next season – and play with the club’s under-23s squad after struggling to get game time since leaving Australia.
It follows an underwhelming loan spell at Hearts in Scotland, where the striker featured in just seven matches after arriving with plenty of hype in January.
Much was expected of the rising star, especially after his eye-catching performances for Australia at the World Cup in Qatar last year – but the 18-year-old barely featured for the Jam Tarts.
It was hoped joining fellow Aussies Kye Rowles, Nathaniel Atkinson and Cam Devlin at Tynecastle Park would make the transition easier for Kuol.
Socceroos great Robbie Slater has called for Garang Kuol to return to Newcastle next season – and play with the club’s under-23s squad
It follows an underwhelming loan spell at Hearts in Scotland, where Kuol featured in just seven games after arriving with plenty of hype in January (pictured, in action against Rangers)
And while Slater’s proposal may appear radical to some football fans, it has proven to be a fruitful exercise for fellow Socceroos young gun Alex Robertson at Manchester City.
‘Alex is training every day with world-class players and playing regular football in the Premier League 2 competition,’ Slater told Daily Mail Australia.
‘He showed his class for the Socceroos recently against Ecuador and looks like he will be a key player for the national team over the next few years.
‘Garang needs to follow a similar path if he is to realise his potential … I said at the time a move to Scotland wouldn’t suit his playing style, and I am sure the experience at Hearts would have been a little bit soul-destroying.
‘But he needs to put that behind him now and start games – and lots of them.’
Slater also pointed to the fact that Newcastle are likely to finish in the top four of the Premier League, which would secure an automatic spot in the Champions League next season.
That feat will see an array of talented new faces arrive at St James’ Park – and given their combined owners are estimated to be worth $620billion, they are a club on the rise in many aspects.
Garang Kuol was denied by Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez late in the second half at the World Cup in the round of 16 clash in Qatar on December 3
If the 18-year-old had scored, Australia would have pushed eventual champions Argentina into extra time (pictured, marking Lionel Messi)
Slater – who didn’t find it easy abroad initially after he secured a move from Sydney United to Belgium giants Anderlecht back in 1989 – stressed patience is key.
‘Garang is only a boy, the burden of expectation from some people does worry me,’ he said.
‘He is a raw talent, but far from the finished product.
‘A-League fans will remember he was largely used off the bench by the [Central Coast] Mariners, which was fine given his age and ability to ask questions of fatigued defenders.
‘I remember when I went overseas, I had stars in my eyes and it was very tough for me at Anderlecht.
‘I was fortunate to kick on with Lens [in France] which then got me an opportunity with Blackburn in the Premier League.
‘Garang’s focus should be regular minutes on the pitch. His next move is crucial in my eyes.’