Although Tommy Oar is only 27-years-old, he has already had a long and expansive career, with this season being his 11th.

He first signed for the Brisbane Roar as a fresh-faced 16-year-old, and the following year earned a Socceroos call up, and a move to Dutch club FC Utrecht at the age of 18, where he spent five years and appeared in over 100 matches.

Since then, Oar has also played for English side Ipswich Town, a return to Brisbane Roar, APOEL in Cyprus, and eventually the Central Coast Mariners, where he is currently plying his trade.

Oar is somewhat of an outlier, as he has had success from a move to Europe at such a young age.

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“For me it was good timing. I was riding a bit of a wave from a breakthrough season and a Socceroos call up”, remembers Oar.

“FC Utrecht offered me a five-year deal and it was a good long-term project. I could tell that they really wanted to invest in me as a player.

“The first one or two years there was all about development and there probably wasn’t as much pressure on me as there would have been at other clubs”.

Oar is one of the few success stories of young Australians chasing a move overseas. Too many in recent memory have fallen victim to a lack of game time, and as such return to the A-League to re-boot their career. Some examples include Chris Ikonomidis, Terry Antonis, and most recently, Jamie Maclaren.

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Perhaps the most famous example, though, is Daniel De Silva, who is currently plying his trade with Sydney FC. De Silva debuted for Perth Glory at the age of 15, and shortly after secured a move to Roma in Italy. He was loaned out, but a severe lack of game time saw him return to Australia with the Central Coast Mariners.

He was criticised for making the big move too young, and currently 21-years-old, De Silva’s development is seeing the impact from a lack of game time since his move abroad. He was piped up to be the next big thing for the Socceroos but has instead had to fight for a starting spot in the A-League.

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“I think for young players now it’s important that there’s a real long-term plan for you, and to make sure you’re involved in the first team”, Oar said.

“You see too many young kids going over and signing for academies. Realistically, not many players end up breaking through from the academy to the first team, including local players, so you’re just one of many.

“I think a big advantage for me going over was I was still 18, so I still had, in their eyes, years of development left.

“I think if you go over at 20 or 21 there’s more pressure on you to hit the ground running and be performing, because the bottom line is, they would have local players that age already at the level of the first team”.

There is a damning statistic going around to support Oar’s claims, too. One statistic claims that the first overseas club young Australians sign for ends up being the biggest club they sign for. In other words, they normally take a step down after they first move overseas when they go over with aspirations to do the opposite.

De Silva and Ikonomidis are just two examples of this – although it should be noted that their careers aren’t over yet.

“I think that’s partly because our young players are going overseas too soon”, Oar said in response to those statistics.

“You really need to judge it case-by-case and assess what the plans are for you over there.

“It helps to go over with some sort of reputation or pedigree already under your belt, because if you go over with everything to prove, it’s very difficult to compete because in reality you’re one of 50 players in the same position.

“For me, I was lucky enough to be coming off a breakout season at Brisbane and had some national team experience which helped me”.

Leaving too soon is something many young players fall into the trap of, and it’s understandable why so many decide to leave. Mathew Leckie, Tom Rogic and Mat Ryan are all examples of how it can have a very positive impact on both your club and international careers. As for Daniel Arzani, that’s still a wait and see process.

But the overwhelming majority of young prospects end up on Australian shores very quickly after a big move abroad, and it’s understandable why they race at the opportunity to sign for a big club overseas.

“I think there’s always a doubt in your mind of ‘what if this opportunity never comes again?’. It’s easy to see why players would jump at the opportunity to sign for big clubs overseas, but I think the reality of it when you’re over there will really hit you”, Oar said.

“Having gone overseas so young, people don’t always realise how challenging it can be being away from your family and friends at a young age.

“The first year in particular was the hardest year, but the more time I spent over there the more I enjoyed it and matured off the field”.

If Oar, Leckie, Rogic and Ryan are examples to go off, sticking it out beyond that first season is an important step in having success overseas and getting picked for the national team.

Mat Ryan’s move to Brugge is Belgium was a success, but then moved to Spanish side Valencia and struggled to break into the first team. He would have been forgiven for growing impatient, giving up, and returning to a league where he knew he could succeed. Instead he stuck it out, got a move to Brighton, and is now a first-choice goalkeeper in the English Premier League and a strong candidate to be the next Socceroos captain.

However sticking it out isn’t a common trend for young Aussies struggling abroad, as returning to the A-League is now a big motivation for Australian’s seeking international selection due to the likelihood of regular game time.

“One of the big factors for me coming back and playing with the Mariners now is to try and get back into the national team”, said Oar.

“Being in the A-League you know you’re in the shop window so to speak.

“Everyone has got their eyes on the matches, whereas in Cyprus as an example, even when I thought I was playing well there are people who don’t always see how well you’re going, so for me that was a big factor in coming back to Australia”.

It is somewhat of a trend in recent years, as we have seen players like Craig Goodwin, Chris Ikonomidis and Mitchell Duke return to the A-League. Obviously, there are other factors such as family and friends which help with the move, but a big motivator is earning a national team call-up.

Mitchell Duke in particular was frustrated he didn’t receive a call-up to the Socceroos, despite putting in terrific performances for J1 side Shimizu S-Pulse in Japan.

Chris Ikonomidis was left frustrated with a lack of game time after securing a dream move to Lazio in Italy and has since returned to the A-League and consequentially earned Socceroos selection.

“Now with Graham Arnold involved and Ange Postecoglou before that, I think Australian coaches in the national team are looking to the A-League for Socceroos selections, whereas previously with international coaches that wasn’t the case”, said Oar.

“Every year the league is getting stronger and stronger and new teams are starting to come in, so there will be opportunities for players, and I think that trend will continue”.

Feature Image Credit: Central Coast Mariners

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Football writer and radio presenter. Loves everything football (well, except Italian's diving since '06).