A TREMENDOUS season for teenage goalkeeping sensation Tom Manos has been capped by a phone call from Socceroo skipper Lucas Neill...and a chance-of-a-lifetime trip to the UK.
The Manly United U18s shot stopper kept an average of one clean sheet every two games in a breakthrough season that saw him pick up the sought-after Lucas Neill Scholarship.
Manos, who first put on the gloves just three years ago, will now head overseas in January to trial with some of the biggest clubs in the UK - and at the top of his wish-list is Arsenal.
The Year 12 student said he was “overwhelmed” to get a call from the national team skipper soon after learning he had beaten a strong field of contenders for the annual scholarship.
“It was just random,” Manos said. “I saw a blocked number come up on my mobile and thought, I’ll pick it up, and he said ‘Hi it’s Lucas Neill’. I was like – oh wow – Lucas Neill is talking to me.
“I tried to say something (worthwhile). I hope I did.”
A member of the 2011 Joeys Squad, Manos is the seventh recipient of the scholarship after Chris Payne, Simon Beer, Joe Gibbs, Leigh Egger, Tonu Liiband and Jack Green. Previous winners have enjoyed trials at Leeds, Blackburn, Wigan, West Ham and Stoke.
The scholarship was launched by Neill in 2006 to provide funding and opportunities for up and coming footballers from his junior club.
Neill hailed Manos's young talent and added: “As someone that has already had the privilege of representing his country, he is a very worthy winner and I’m sure he’ll make everyone proud.”
Neill’s father Ed attended today's special presentation along with former Socceroo keeper Mark Bosnich who took the 16-year-old aside to offer some advice about his upcoming opportunity.
“He told me not to be nervous,” said Manos. “He said just go over and enjoy the experience.
“Not many kids get to go over at my age and play with professional teams. So, he said, when I get over there just make the most of it and do the best that I can.”
Manos said he was grateful for the opportunity and revealed he owed it all to his father who steered him towards the sport at the age of nine.
“I always wanted to play rugby league like my dad did but he got so many injuries that he pushed me away from that and into football,” he said.
A few broken fingers and wrist later, Manos says his father’s instincts were right, although maybe not about the injuries.
“I loved it from the moment I started – as soon as I ran on the pitch I fell in love with it,” he said.
“I was at the park with my cousin one day when I was younger and he put me in goals when he was shooting and he told me a few things about goalkeeping.
“I pretty much processed all that and thought I wouldn’t mind being a keeper and then that season I started.”
He has a number of goalkeeping heroes he watches live, on TV and via YouTube – Socceroos legend Mark Schwarzer and Central Coast Mariners’ glovesman Maty Ryan among them.
But he said it’s the Spaniard Iker Casillas that inspires him to overcome all obstacles.
“He’s different from every other keeper,” he said. “He’s short, like he’s pretty much my height (1.83m).
"He was told that he’s got to be tall to be a goalkeeper but he fought against that and now he’s probably the best keeper in the world.
“I think you’ve just got to be mentally strong (to be a great goalkeeper) and continue to push yourself and strive to be better than what you were the day before or what you were the week before.
“Within the next five years I hope to get an A-League contract as young as I can. I want to play first grade at a very young age and from there hopefully move overseas.
“The important thing is to improve and better your game and through that you’re going to become the number one goalkeeper, hopefully, and from there go on to bigger and better things.”