STAR focus for Glory KIDS

It could be half a dozen years or more before any of this long line of Perth Glory hopefuls cracks the Hyundai A-League team.

It could be half a dozen years or more before any of this long line of Perth Glory hopefuls cracks the Hyundai A-League team.

But even if just one of them makes it, the wait would have been worth it.

The children lining up here to grab an autograph from Glory-s star striker Shane Smeltz are all members of the club-s Summer Development Program, which offers skills training during the Football West off-season.

Around 100 members of the club-s development squad were at McGillivray Oval over the Australia Day weekend to witness their heroes sweating it out in training.

The squad of youngsters, aged between seven and 11, were not entirely focused on the senior players during the session overseen coach Ian Ferguson, but they had pens and posters at the ready when it came to speaking to the Glory squad after their work-out.

Senior Glory community and development coach Michael Garcia, who is a former midfielder for the club, said the annual training day was an important part of the program.

“These guys are all aspiring to become football players, so naturally seeing the first team guys do their thing is important,” Garcia said.

“They can see what the players are doing in a training environment.

“They-ll probably only take in a few minutes of what they see. But that-s OK. It-s more about exposing them to the elite environment and physically showing them that they could be on that park as well. So, it doesn-t seem like a dream; they can see it right in front of them.”

Garcia said the benefits of the program were evident very quickly.

“After about the first three months of the program you could start seeing the players come on,” he said.

“The kids are improving naturally but being in a competitive environment creates more rapid development.

“The aim is to try to get players involved from seven or eight years old and try to build them up all the way through to the first team.”

The summer program runs until March when most players will be ready to return to their local junior clubs.