Kewell's grassroots snub & remarkable way he was signed by Leeds

From being rejected at district level to signing for Leeds after a game he was not even supposed to play in, Harry Kewell’s road to the top was not as straightforward as you may suspect.

During the latest episode of the FFA Podcast, the Socceroos legend recalled how he originally failed to catch the eye of representative coaches during his time at Smithfield Public School.

“I was disappointed, but I thought well I'll get another chance,” he said.

“But I remember my dad's mate went up to the coach and said, ‘you just made the biggest mistake ever. You didn’t pick him (Kewell). He's our better player. You're an idiot for not doing it.’

“Then I remember the coach that picked squad came to my school he turned around and said, ‘I want you for the district team.’”

Listen to the FULL interview on the FFA Podcast NOW! Subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play & Spotify.

READ: Kewell: Why I was the missing puzzle piece against Italy

That one belated call-up proved to be the first step of Kewell’s prodigious rise to stardom.

“I was on the bench and didn’t play that much,” he said.

“But the times I did play, I ended up playing well and I was picked straight into the regional team.”

From there Kewell excelled at state level, where he was identified to join the academy of late great coach David Lee.

It was there that his football flourished.

“That's where I started really to learn how to play football properly, and when I got introduced to players like Brett Emerton and Paul Reid,” he reflected.

“They were all talented players and way better than me. But I suppose I had a willingness to learn and I just soaked it all up.”

WATCH BELOW: Harry Kewell on Iran heroics in FIFA World Cup Play-Offs

In 1995 Kewell was handpicked to embark on a footballing journey he would never forget, thanks to the Big Brother Movement scholarship.

“They gave six invitations out to David Lee, and I think he had 12 players at the time,” Kewell explained.

“I was lucky enough to get picked along with Brett Emerton and the two of us got to go to Leeds.

“It was an opportunity to see what the youngsters are like and how their day to day life is, so we got a little taste of it.”

Despite no promises of an official trial, the pair were granted a valuable opportunity to showcase their talent during a youth game against Sunderland.

After impressing Leeds academy boss Paul Hart, the British heritage of Kewell’s father meant that the Elland Road club could offer him a professional deal immediately.

“We weren’t even supposed to play that game, but we did,” he recalled. 

“I played the second half and after the game, my coach Paul Hart came up to me and said, ‘how would you like to sign for us?’

“I said yes straight away: ‘100%, I’m here.’”

Kewell made his top-flight debut for Leeds just a year later at the age of 17.

The Socceroo starred for the Yorkshire club during a golden period where they finished in the English Premier League top five over five consecutive seasons from 1998 to 2003.

He registered 45 goals in 181 league appearances before transferring to Liverpool in 2003. 

Watch Football Stories: Harry Kewell in the video player below!


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