Will we see any Australians breaking into the Premier League in the next couple of seasons
- Updated: August 24, 2021
With Mat Ryan’s summer departure to play in Spain with Real Sociedad, so ended Australia’s only recognised player currently plying his trade in the English Premier League (EPL).
Over the past two decades, Australia has always enjoyed a strong representation in the EPL. Thinking back to the early days of the competition and you will fondly remember the likes of Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, Brett Emerton, Tim Cahill and Mark Schwarzer all lighting up the league with some dazzling performances that put Australia on the world football map.
In more recent years, Aaron Mooy enjoyed a three-year stint with Huddersfield Town and Brighton and Hove Albion before shipping out to Shanghai in 2020, and the most recent Aussie to have graced the EPL was Ryan, whose four years with Brighton and then loan at Arsenal came to an end this summer with a move to Real Sociedad in Spain.
To date, there have been 52 Australians to have played in the English top-flight, however, this year could be the first season in a long while that Australia is not represented. There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon with a couple of young players on the cusp of breaking into their respective first-teams. Competition for places, however, is fierce, so the jury is still out on whether either of the players contracted to EPL clubs in 2021/22 can make the all-important breakthrough next season.
Caleb Watts (Southampton)
Just three days after turning 19, Caleb Watts made his senior debut for Southampton as they defeated Shrewsbury Town 2-0 in the FA Cup in January of this year.
The midfielder put in a solid 85-minute performance with manager Ralph Hasenhuttl impressed with how his younger squad handled their step up to the first team.
Watts has been with the Saints since 2018 and is currently contracted to the club until 2022, as he looks to force his way into Premier League contention.
Watts currently has three EPL appearances to his name, however, he has been a stand out performer in the Premier League 2, where he made over 20 appearances last season. The Aussie certainly hasn’t been short of game time at Southampton and showed enough quality when called upon to suggest that 2021/22 could be a breakthrough season for Watts and more EPL minutes could await.
Watts went to the U17 World Cup with Australia in 2019 but is reportedly eligible to play for England at senior level too, should the opportunity present itself.
Bookies are predicting a tough season ahead for Southampton. Betway currently has The Saints at 501.00 to win the Premier League in 2021/22 and 5.50 to face the drop.
Alexander Robertson (Manchester City)
A player with perhaps a more difficult route to minutes in the EPL is Alexander Robertson. Despite scoring 17 goals last season across the under-18 and under-23s on the way to picking up a PL2 trophy as league winners, the path to the first-team at Manchester City is a tough one, however, there’s a real buzz growing around Robertson.
Robertson left Hakoah Sydney for the Etihad in late 2017 and has worked his way up their youth ranks showing a knack for finding the back of the net.
Despite growing up in Australia, Robertson is also eligible to play for England and has already represented the Three Lions at youth level.
Whichever nation he does go on to play for at senior level though, it’s safe to say Aussies will still be claiming him as one of their own should he go on to play in the Premier League.
In early July, it was announced that Robertson would spend the season on loan at Scottish Premier League team Ross County. County Manager Malky Mackay has tracked Robertson for four years and was delighted to secure his signature for the upcoming season.
“He has scored goals for every team he has played with and the variety of goals he scores, off both feet as well as set plays, has really caught the eye. Alexander also brings an energy, hard work and tenacity to our midfield group, as well as a youthful vibrance and an elite mentality,” Mackay told County’s website.
Whilst 2021/22 may not be the season we see Robertson plying his trade in the EPL, don’t expect it to be too long before he is pulling on the sky blue of Manchester City or he is snapped up by another EPL side, especially if he carries on his fine form.
City are currently favourites to win the EPL season with Betway at 1.72.
There is Australian representation across other leagues in England and Scotland. In the English Championship, Harry Souttar is a regular in the Stoke City lineup and Kenny Dougall at Blackpool will get a chance to shine in the Championship following promotion with Blackpool last season where he scored a brace in the final at Wembley. Riley McGree also plays in the Championship with Birmingham City whilst Robertson could well come up against fellow forward Martin Boyle who plays for Hibernian in the Scottish Premier League.
It may be time for football in Australia to go back to its grassroots and review the system from top to bottom in a bid to see more of our country’s star players breaking into arguably the biggest league in world football – the EPL.