Josh Risdon is delighted with the progress he has made throughout this season.
Josh Risdon knows he's still a long way off being able to fulfil a lifelong dream of playing in one of Europe's elite leagues, but the Perth Glory defender is still delighted with his progress this season.
The 19-year-old has defied even his own expectations in the 2011/12 Hyundai A-League campaign, making the Glory's right-back spot his own in a series of displays which have earned high praise from coach Ian Ferguson.
Risdon's chance to shine came about through a serious knee injury to Scott Neville and the reliable defender knew he had to take advantage.
"I didn't think I was going to play the amount of games I have been playing," Risdon said of his pre-season expectations.
"Unfortunately for Nevs, it happened five weeks into the season. I knew I had to step up to fill in that spot for my sake and the team's sake. And I think I've done pretty well.
"I've been really grateful that I've been able to keep that spot.
"I think I'm getting better each game and I think I'm learning more the more time I spend in the A-League. Each game is making me better."
Neville's injury was felt hard early as it coincided with the start of Perth's mid-season slump, which saw them win just one of 11 games and drop out of the top six.
But since then, Glory have won eight of their last 11 games to jump into third spot with two games remaining and Risdon has been a huge part in that success.
Risdon, who has started 18 games this season, said it was tough early but he found his own standards lift as the team's performances improved after Christmas.
"It's a good team environment now so it's easy to play well when the players around me are doing so well," he said.
That experience will prove particularly crucial if Risdon is to fulfil his aim of making it as a professional footballer in one of the top leagues of Europe.
The native of Bunbury, about a two hour drive south of Perth, recently signed a contract extension with the Glory which will keep him at the club until the end of the 2013/14 season.
After that, like many young players, Risdon dreams of playing in the English Premier League.
"That's a long way away for me at the moment though. I would like to establish myself as a player in the A-League first before I move anywhere else," he said.
"It's the biggest league in the world and it attracts the best players and to play over there has always been a dream of mine. It'd be great if that could come true."
"I think I've got to work on my speed, that's the main thing. Speed and fitness and also my knowledge of football."
For now, Risdon is content at the Glory but knows he faces a challenge to hold onto his spot with Neville well on the road to recovery on the eve of the finals.
He'll look to use his call-up to the Olyroos squad for the dead-rubber Olympic qualifier against Iraq to show he deserves to hold onto his right-back spot.
"I was a bit disappointed I didn't get selected in the previous Olyroos trips but I'm in there now and hopefully I can do well," he said.
"I thought I'd been playing well and good enough to get picked, but the coach must have thought something different."
"To learn from other coaches and other players, the best players my age around Australia and the world, is going to be great."