Thompson backs Pain, Nabbout to star for Victory

The experienced forward believe his young colleagues are ready to fight for a place in the first team following their exploits in the 2012-13 A-League campaign

Archie Thompson has tipped youngsters Connor Pain and Andrew Nabbout to step up and earn regular starting berths for Melbourne Victory next season.

Both youngsters burst onto the scene last term, earning their senior debuts after catching the eye of the club's progressive head coach Ange Postecoglou.

Pain's rise has been particularly meteoric, impressing in the sold-out friendly against Liverpool at the MCG last month, before making his debut for Australia four days later, coming off the bench in the East Asian Cup against China.

With forwards Marco Rojas and Marcos Flores having moved on, Pain is now expected to help fill the void left by their departure in 2013-14.

"He's a good chance to start this year, because he's improved," Thompson said.

"He's playing for the Young Socceroos, he's made his debut for the Socceroos, [Australia coach] Holger [Osieck] sees something special in him, Ange sees something special in him, we [the players] see something special in him.

"Now it's up to him, if he wants to take that next step and be in that starting XI. The way he's training, I'm sure [he] will be."

Plucked from Victorian Premier League side Moreland Zebras, Nabbout announced himself to the A-League in spectacular fashion, scoring twice as a substitute in a 3-2 comeback win away to Victory's fierce rivals Sydney FC in November last year.

Having enjoyed the benefits of preparing for the campaign in a professional environment, Thompson expects Nabbout and his fellow emerging talents to shine.

"He's got a pre-season under his belt," he said.

"When he came in last year he was probably lacking a bit of fitness. He came onto the scene and it was like 'wow, bang', two goals against Sydney, scored another couple of goals and everyone's thinking this is some hot property.

"Now he's got that [experience] under his belt I think you'll see him stepping up another level. Also young [Francesco] Stella ... Jesse Makarounas, these guys that have sort of been on the fringes have got a good opportunity, because now they've got a pre-season under them, they know what's expected of them in our team. They're all stepping up."

With so many hungry young players pushing their established colleagues for selection, Thompson knows he will have to be at his best if he wants to keep his place in the starting XI.

"It's tough [competing] for positions," he said.

"Do I play out wide? We've got Kosta [Barbarouses], we've got Connor, we've got Nabbout. Do I play inside? We've got Gui [Guilherme Finkler] coming back, we've got Jesse Makarounas. I think I'm going to have to find another team," he joked.

"[It] totally depends on where Ange puts me. I'm happy to play any role. I've played out wide and had a lot of success there last year, me and Rojas. I slotted back in to a sort of middle role and had a big impact there, so whatever he decides to do, it's up to him."

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