When 18-year-old Brisbane Roar left winger Tommy Oar made his debut for Australia in their 1-0 Asian Cup qualifying victory over Indonesia last week, the most striking thing about him was initially the number 121 shirt on his back.
The assured nature of his performance, though, confirmed growing suspicions that he is the hottest prospect in Australian football and national coach Pim Verbeek was quick to call for calm.
“I wish I could keep the pressure and everything down but I must be honest, I thought he played a fantastic game,” Verbeek said. “I can say a few things about areas he can improve but I think he was fantastic. Let’s try to keep it normal for the boy, he’s just 18-years-old and don’t mention him as the next Harry Kewell please.”
Comparisons with Kewell are proving increasingly difficult to avoid, however. Oar shares many of the Galatasaray man’s key attributes, including a finely calibrated left foot, a wonderfully relaxed kicking action and an intuitive dribbling ability, and makes no secret of his admiration for the former Premier League sensation.
“When I was little and when he used to play for Leeds and at the start of his Liverpool career he was always my favourite player to watch,” admits Oar, who is also an adept crosser of the ball. “Obviously because he was Australian and also just because of the way he played. Trying to take defenders on and scoring goals; he’s a very exciting player. I’ve always tried to mould my game on him.”
Oar’s eye-catching showing in the victory over Indonesia, as well as some match-winning performances in the A-League, have led to calls for his inclusion in Australia’s squad at the World Cup. His fearless playing style would be sure to delight the crowds in South Africa and his surname makes him a headline-writer’s dream – Oar paddles to Queensland’s rescue, The Roar’s Oar soars and Tommy’s Oar-some debut are the kind of headlines Australian football fans have had to get used to in recent months. Oar, meanwhile, is doing his level best to keep his feet on the ground.
“At the end of the day I’ve just played 20 A-League games and once for the Socceroos, so there’s no need to get ahead of myself,” he said. “Things can turn around really quickly so I’ve just got to keep working hard and make sure it doesn’t stop.”
A move to Europe is already on the cards, with Eredivisie heavyweights Feyenoord rumoured to be in pole position following Oar’s decision to sign up with Dutch super-agent Rob Jansen, whose clients include Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt and Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.
The World Cup may come too soon for Oar, but one suspects he won’t be kept out of the spotlight for long.