Steering Melbourne City’s visit to Shepparton was coach Warren Joyce, 53, as the Englishman embarks on his second season in charge of club.
But while he usually spends his time working to extract the best out of a hand-picked group of experienced athletes, Joyce was looking at the future late Thursday, putting a handful of Goulburn Valley youngsters through their paces.
The veteran coach worked the talents as hard as he could in an extraordinary chance for the young players to perform in front of a powerhouse club.
Before arriving in Melbourne, Joyce had coached Manchester United’s reserves, Hull City and Wigan Athletic after a lengthy playing career, but said City matched any of those experiences.
‘‘It’s a professional club, the people there, the facilities they’ve got are top notch,’’ he said.
‘‘You would think you were at any big club in England with the quality of people that work at the football club.
‘‘I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, the aim is to keep progressing and keep moving the club forward and hopefully we can do that this season.’’
Taking a look at the Goulburn Valley youngsters, which included talents who had recently played at the FFA National Youth Championships, Joyce was not there to muck around.
For a coach who has helped shape more than 50 internationals, including Manchester United stars Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, you can learn plenty about a player in a short space of time.
‘‘I’m just going to see what they’re like really — you can put little drills on them and see what their technique is like, can see whether they’re good learners and whether they’re good athletes as well,’’ he said.
‘‘There’s little things to test their awareness, we’ll get a good idea of where they’re at as players by the end of it.’’
As much as coaching and talent are core ingredients, Joyce believes a genuine drive to succeed was what binds together the recipe for success.
‘‘They’ve got to have the drive and the dedication themselves and if they’re serious about playing football or being any kind of sportsman, it’s got to be a way of life not a job,’’ he said.
‘‘They’ve got to do all the extra things and dedicate their life to being the best they possibly can be.
‘‘The bits I’m looking at, obviously I’ll put little tests on them where they won’t know if they’re being tested, but I’ll get an idea if they have good awareness, if they have good touch, you’ll see by one or two things if they can pick things up quickly.’’
Someone who hopes he is on the Joyce-led journey to success is Cobram youngster Gianluca Ianucci, the former GV Sun and City academy talent recently getting game-time for the Citizens through preseason.
Joyce said as far as the teen had come, there was still a long way to go.
‘‘He’s got some skill, he’s still at school so he’s not always with us, but he’s got talent and he’s got a trick,’’ Joyce said.
‘‘He’s got to keep working hard, he’s got to push himself and work hard, and test himself and challenge himself.
‘‘He’s got a little bit of talent, but there’s a long way to go in his career as there is for any young player. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into it before they break into the first team.’’