LUONGO AIMS TO BE NEW WIZARD FROM OZ
BOTH were born in Sydney and both made life-changing decisions to up sticks at 18 and move halfway round the world – and Swindon’s Massimo Luongo hopes the similarities with idol Tim Cahill don’t end there.
Luongo is on the books of Tottenham but with around £90m of new talent arriving at White Hart Lane this summer, his chances appear limited.
Even before the cheque book was opened by the Premier League outfit Luongo had agreed to return to the Robins where he spent a largely successful couple of months at the end of last season.
A play-off semi-final exit was a blot on the record, but the midfielder did score in the 1-1 draw with Brentford and showed enough promise to be tied down to a season-long loan this term at the County Ground.
He’s still to stamp his mark in North London though – his one and only appearance for Spurs came in the third round of the League Cup in 2011 and was marred by a missed penalty and subsequent 7-6 loss on spot-kicks to Stoke.
But having seen Cahill prove his worth in the Football League with Millwall before his big break at Everton, the 20-year-old Australian admits he could benefit from being away from the stresses and strains of top flight football.
“It’s great to be back, there are a few familiar faces which always helps,” said Luongo. “Tottenham were keen for it to happen as well. I enjoyed it so much last season it made the decision really easy.
“It gives me the chance to shine, it’s so much easier to express myself in this environment. There’s no real pressure.
“At Spurs I was more of a defensive midfielder, in the Scott Parker mould, but here at Swindon I’m given a bit more freedom to get forward, and I enjoy that. I’m more of a box to box midfielder here.
“Timmy (Tim Cahill) is someone I look up to, but I don’t necessarily try to base my game on him.
“Seeing the likes of him and Harry Kewell come straight over here proves it can be done, they did it so successfully.
“I had a trial for Tottenham that my agent sorted at 17, but I couldn’t sign until I was 18. It was a big chance and everyone was telling me to do it and I’m really glad I did.
“It wasn’t that hard to move, I knew it was a massive chance, I’d had a few A League offers in Australia but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go down that route, I was a bit young and it had to be something big to tempt me – and it was big.”
Familiar faces greeted Luongo on his arrival back with Swindon, including Spurs teammates Ryan Mason, Alex Pritchard, Jack Barthram, Nathan Byrne and Grant Hall.
However Kevin MacDonald, the manager who brought him to the club in March, left the club by mutual consent in the summer.
Mark Cooper, his assistant, has been elevated into the role fulltime and Luongo gave the former AFC Telford boss his backing.
“I was disappointed not to see Kevin here this season, he was the guy who brought me in and had faith in me to do a job,” he added.
“But having Coops here is great. He was here last season as assistant and it makes it a bit easier.
“He’s good around the boys, he knows how the club works and we trust him. Obviously we all would have liked to have finished last season with promotion, but that was last year.
“There’s not been any talk of promotion, we’re not really worried about it, it’s about taking one game at a time, and I’m most comfortable doing it that way, I want to be in my prime.
“A lot of the players have gone from last year and the average age is quite young so that’s something we have to consider.”
Despite playing in England for three years, the Australia U20 international’s parents had been unable to make the trip over to see him in action before the 1-0 win over Stevenage two weeks ago. Luongo scored the winner, and he’s hoping to impress again when they return for his birthday in late September.
“I really wanted to put on a good show for them, so it probably got more out of me,” he continued.
“I couldn’t have asked for more – to score and get man of the match. They are heading to Italy for a couple of weeks and will be back to see me play again around my birthday.”
CHANCE TO SHINE: Massimo Luongo, left, tangles with Kyle Bennett of Doncaster Rovers
EVERTON STAR: Tim Cahill