CALEB Patterson-Sewell may not be a household name in Australia just yet but the 25-year-old Portugal-based goalkeeper hopes a place in the Socceroos will change that.
The Tennessee born, Queensland-raised shotstopper currently lines up for Vitoria de Setubal in the Primeira Liga and sees himself as a potential heir to the gloves of Australia’s long-serving number one, Mark Schwarzer.
After a stand-out year for second tier Atletico Clube last season, including a nomination for best goalkeeper of the year, the national team heavyweights certainly took notice.
Socceroos goalkeeping coach Tony Franken flew to Portugal in August and watched the former Queensland Academy of Sport graduate and his team take on Benfica.
It was a less than auspicious introduction, a Setubal player red-carded not long after kick-off and the Portuguese powerhouse pushing home its advantage with a 5-0 demolition. Afterwards Franken had coffee with Patterson-Sewell and watched a replay of the game, analysing the goals.
“I’ve been known to the Socceroos for quite a while but this is the first time (Franken) flew out and watched me play,” Patterson-Sewell said.
“I think it helped that last year I played in the second league and had a very good season and was nominated for goalkeeper of the year on a ballot of three.
“That’s quite an uncommon thing for a foreigner so they were really taking a lot of notice of that and when I signed here at Setubal (Franken) was always in touch with my agent.
“He flew out, he came to watch the game and I got good feedback which was nice.”
Patterson-Sewell, who has an American father and Australian mother, arrived in Gatton, Queensland, at the age of two but his accent bears the influences of a football journey across several continents.
As a teenager he was picked up by Anderlecht reserves, then Sheffield Wednesday Youth Academy and played four games for Liverpool’s U19 side until work permit problems forced him home.
He didn’t stay long, with just a brief stint with the Toowoomba Raiders before heading to the United States.
After impressing in the third tier with Cleveland City Stars he was picked up by MLS side New York Red Bulls in 2008, later rejecting a contract extension due to a lack of game time.
By the 2011/12 season he was in Portugal.
Patterson-Sewell is hoping to stake a claim in the post- Schwarzer era, but first he has to get back on the field.
He's been benched since that calamitous game in August and forced to contend with a new keeper from Porto - but he’s certainly not alone in that boat.
“If you look at the goalkeepers that have come out of Australia and are playing right now, I guess it’s just Mark at the moment (getting regular game time),” he said.
“Obviously he’s getting older now so they’re casting an eye to the future which is normal. I guess next in line would be (Adam) Federici, and then you’ve got Mitch (Langerak) over in Germany, myself here and I guess Brad’s (Jones) is in the mix over in Liverpool.
“There’s definitely goalkeepers coming through and all of a good age and there’ll be more coming through the ranks as well. There’s a lot to play for and I think if I can get game time I can jump to the head of the queue.”
The Aussie recently became ambassador for the Volunteer Firefighters of Setubul to help in their fundraising efforts and is keen to contribute to the development of the city, though regaining the number one jersey remains his priority.
Earlier this month National Technical Director Han Berger was in Portugal to watch the young Socceroos take on the host nation’s U20 side and the local media were keen to hear what the Dutchman thought of the only Aussie playing in the Portuguese topflight.
The response was pretty much as Patterson-Sewell expected: “He basically said ‘We know about him, we’ve been out here to watch him play and he’s definitely one that we’re looking at. He’s at the right age for the future. We could call him up but just lately for the last couple of games he’s been on the bench and until he’s playing it’s a bit difficult to call him up’.”
And that’s fair enough, the goalkeeper said.
“Obviously I want to be playing too and I thought I played well at the beginning of the year,” he added.
“I’ve spoken to my agent about it at length and we’re just going to monitor the situation and see how it goes closer to January and maybe then we’ll start to have some conversations with the club if things haven’t changed and see what their thoughts are.”
In the meantime he hasn’t ruled out a late run for the 2014 World Cup, if he can sort out his club football.
“Absolutely - I play in one of the best leagues in the world,” he said. “I think I’ve just got to get back onto the field and then I’m in with a great shot.”
The Queenslander keeps in contact with mates back home such as Phoenix midfielder Jimmy Downey, who lived with Patterson-Sewell’s family while attending the QAS, and former schoolmate now Adelaide United player Dario Vidosic.
Would he consider playing in the A-League?
“For sure – I’m not saying I’m quitting the league now and moving back home but from the outside looking in it seems what the A-League is moving in the right direction,” he said.
“It’s definitely something I’d be open to in the future and I think to come back and play in front of friends and family would be cool.”