Deng receives NAB Young Footballer of the Year nomination

Melbourne Victory defender Thomas Deng’s season has been further recognised, with Wednesday’s selection in the Olyroos squad followed up by Thursday’s nomination for the NAB Young Footballer of the Year.

They’re yet more feathers in the cap of the developing defender, who was selected for his first senior Socceroos squad in October and made his full international debut in November.

“It’s a very good feeling to be nominated for this award,” Deng said on Thursday.

“I was nominated last year as well and I’m pretty happy with the way I’m going at the moment. I’m enjoying my football, it’s good to be recognised.”

Regarding his Olyroos selection, Deng was understandably looking forward to the opportunity to pull on the green and gold.

“I’m excited for the camp coming up. It’s an Olympic qualifier, which is very important. I [can’t wait] for the games and would like to thank the Club for putting me in a good position to be selected.

“Whenever you represent your national team you have to play at 100%, [you have] to represent your Club and country at your best.”

A product of the Melbourne Victory youth set-up, the 21-year-old has featured in all 20 of the Club’s league matches this season, starting 18 of them and being an ever-present at the heart of Kevin Muscat’s defence that has seen the youngster partner Leigh Broxham, Georg Niedermeier, Nick Ansell and, more recently, James Donachie. 

“I’ve been here for four or five years now. I’ve come through the youth team and been working with Kev [Kevin Muscat] and the rest of the staff for a number of years.

“I’m quite comfortable with the position I’m in. [I’m] playing a lot of games and [the coaches] are the ones I can thank for that.”

Deng started Melbourne Victory’s opening game of the AFC Champions League on Tuesday night, but was withdrawn mid-way through the second half after pulling up with a muscle injury. 

In a positive news, scans revealed no damage was sustained and whilst his condition will be monitored, he will join his teammates on the flight to Japan. 

“I pulled up a bit sore the other night, but I should be fine. I’ll travel to Japan and get ready for the game.

“If I get the green light I’ll be ready to play. I had scans yesterday, but it’s looking pretty good, I’m confident.

“I want to play, I want to represent the Club. It’s a massive game… the call will be made by the physios and the doctors. I’m in good shape and should be able to play.”

He’s expecting a tough assignment when the boys in blue roll into Hiroshima but knows that’s part and parcel of continental football.

“It’s going to be a tough game over there. They’re a top side and I think we’ll need [to be at our best] after a disappointing result the other night.

“We started the game [against Daegu] well, but in the second half they got on top and took their opportunities… but we’re excited, we’re looking forward to the next game and there’s still a lot of football to be played.”