Youth in focus: Noah Botic
Since Front Page Football last highlighted the blossoming talents within Australian football, the Young Socceroos have progressed past the group stage of the U20 Asian Cup. The state-wide NPL competitions have all started, featuring a new crop of young and exciting talents that may feature in the proposed National Second Division. This week, we deep dive into the Western United striker widely dubbed "The Next Mark Viduka" during his formative years. We are, of course, talking about Noah Botic.
Noah Botic celebrates a goal for Western United. He has been selected for the Olyroos camp in Italy later this month. (Twitter: @wufcofficial)
Unfortunately for Western United fans, their inaugural title defence has not gone to plan. At the turn of the new year, last year's champions found themselves at the foot of the A-League Men table, only amassing 11 points from their first ten matches. However, amid somewhat of a crisis in terms of results, and the losses of Aleksandar Prijovic to niggling injuries and Dylan Wenzel-Halls in a mid-season transfer to the Central Coast, Western have still been able to steady their sinking ship. They have earned impressive wins over the Newcastle Jets, Perth Glory, and Sydney FC. These recent results and the recapture of some of the resolve they showed in their championship run in 2022 have renewed enthusiasm around the football played in Victoria's west. This optimism is evidenced by yesterday's announcement that manager John Aloisi has extended his contract with the club. Western's poor start to the season could have been attributed to an over-reliance on ageing and injury-plagued stars such as Alessandro Diamanti and Prijovic. However, credit must be given to Aloisi for trusting 21-year-old Noah Botic with an extended role as the focal point of the Western attack in recent weeks as the ever-promising starlet begins to stake his claim in Australia's premier football competition.
Botic's talent was noticed at a very early age. Initially coming through at the Western Sydney Wanderers before turning out for Sydney Olympic and Rockdale City Suns in the NPL NSW competitions, Botic soon found himself on the international stage with crucial contributions to Australia's impressive AFC U16 Championship run in 2018. Soon after, he starred in Brazil at the FIFA U17 World Cup, scoring four goals in as many games for his country. These performances earned Botic the inaugural Dylan Tombides medal and a trial at English giants Manchester United before he joined Hoffenheim's youth team in Germany. Unfortunately for Botic, he stagnated in Germany and threatened to drift into obscurity before signing for Western in 2021.
When Botic signed for Western, he relished the opportunity "to continue [his] footballing career under a legend like John Aloisi." However, due to the presence of Prijovic, he only had sporadic first-team opportunities. Thankfully Botic has now found himself picking up more frequent game time in 2023, showing signs of the immense talent first witnessed during Australia's best U17 World Cup performance since 1999.
Botic trialled at Manchester United before signing for Hoffenheim's youth team in Germany. (Twitter: @aleaguemen)
Botic has only six starts to his name in 2022/23, averaging 40 minutes per game. However, since opening his Western account in a 3-2 loss to Adelaide United at AAMI Park, Botic has scored four goals in as many games. A technically gifted target man, Botic's six-foot frame and classy on-ball skill make it easy to see why he was likened to Mark Viduka as a youngster. You only need to look at his match-winning strike against Perth Glory as an example. Botic controlled a fantastic cross from teammate Lachie Wales on his chest before delightfully volleying home the finish. He demonstrates his technical ability when he decides to take players on, completing 50% of his dribbles per match. Botic's on-ball skill and intimidating size are rare and precious commodities in football. KeepUp's Daniel Garb recently described Botic as one of the last "true number 9's" in world football during the most recent edition of The Official Isuzu UTE A-League Podcast. Evidence that he is more of a throwback striker lies in his duels, where Botic wins 3.5 per appearance at an impressive 56% completion rate. This statistic, coupled with a 72% pass completion rate, demonstrates his ability to play as a pivot upfront, making use of his physical dominance to hold possession, progress the ball, and find space in the attacking third, similar to Prijovic, who he has possibly now replaced in Western's starting line-up.
It seems that Botic is finally starting to show the results and resolve he once promised as an exciting young forward dominating youth football on the international stage. Botic has been buying his time and has finally struck gold in a Western United shirt, with an Olyroos call up a tangible reward for his recent uptick in productivity. With crowds at Western United games declining, the excitement Botic can bring to the club may convince some of their foundation fans from 2019 to return, with its future uncertain yet intriguing. Should his form continue, there is little doubt Botic could find himself in line for a significant European move. He seems an apt successor to the current strikers in and around the Socceroos squad. There is a collective hope that fitness, well-being, and form will guide him back to the summit of football stardom. Botic's current purple patch has undoubtedly been noticed around the competition.
All statistics sourced from SofaScore.
Click here to read our previous 'Youth In Focus' on Western United's young A-League Women defender Alana Cerne.