Matthew Grimaldi is set for his first season as a professional footballer, but the 19-year-old is ensuring he doesn’t get too far ahead of himself when making the next step.
After a stellar campaign in NPL 2 Victoria with Western United’s Under 23’s, Grimaldi has impressed John Aloisi and the Isuzu UTE A-League Men coaching staff to earn himself a scholarship contract.
Having achieved that dream, something Grimaldi has been “working towards for a quite a while now”, the young midfielder is taking a ‘one step at a time’ approach to his development.
“Like all young players who get the step up, they want to make their debut. I think I’m just going to take it one step at a time now – make the bench, then get my debut, my starting debut and take it from there. We’ll take it slowly for now,” he said.
Grimaldi made the move to Western United at the beginning of the NPL 2 Victoria season, arriving from Melbourne City’s youth ranks.
Working under Diogo Ferreira and Andrew Durante in the Senior Academy, Grimaldi said the freedom he was given by his coaches helped him hit the ground running.
“I just needed a change of environment and when I came over here, I was backed straight away by Diogo and Dura and given confidence,” he said.
“I think I took that straight away into the first game, scoring a goal, and really used that confidence throughout the whole season and tried to bring that into first-team training. That’s really helped me out a lot.”
That confidence and belief from the coaches transitioned onto the pitch as Grimaldi scored five goals and provided nine assists from midfield.
Getting on the ball and playing forwards is what Grimaldi is all about. The youngsters agility and dynamism on the ball was mesmerising to watch in NPL 2 as he constantly sought to create chances off the dribble or with his impressive range of passing.
That side of his game is something that Grimaldi has taken from watching the best in the business during his childhood, and he admits he has taken particular inspiration from Spain and Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta.
“The one thing I’ve always tried to implement in my game from him is trying to go forward on the ball. Instead of going backwards or sideways and being basic, trying to be positive and trying to help the team,” he said.
“Especially coming over to Western United I’ve been playing more as a 10, getting forward and creating goals and creating chances. In the first-team I’ll be a little deeper in two 6’s but I still feel like I can take on the game and get forward.”
Grimaldi will be eying up a senior debut for United when Aloisi’s side takes on Gold Coast Knights in the Australia Cup Round of 16 on Wednesday night.
With Jake Najdovski and Max Bisetto given their first team debuts in the last round and a number of other Academy products featuring in pre-season training, Grimaldi said it is encouraging to see young players thriving at Western United.
“Football is all about promoting the youth, and Western United is doing a really big job about that. It’s an amazing job from everyone in the Academy,” he said.
“There are so many people working behind the scenes, not just the coaches but all the backroom staff. We were doing early mornings 4-5 times a week, putting in hard hours and there’s a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes that you don’t see on matchday.”
Grimaldi and his new teammates will be out for a win on the Gold Coast to advance to the Australia Cup quarter-finals for what would be the first time in the Club’s history.