THE game of soccer has always been about scoring goals for Adam Taggart.
The 21-year-old World Cup debutant’s ECU Joondalup junior coach Frank Donlevy can vouch for that.
Donlevy coached the Socceroos’ newest No. 9 from the ages of 10 to 14 and remembers a time he asked him to fill in as centre-half in a cup semi-final. Taggart, reluctant about his ability as a defender, did not last long in the relief role.
With the game hanging in the balance at the end of the first half, it was clear what needed to happen.
“We got to half-time and I put him up front, he scored and we won the game,” the Scottish-born football strategist recalled.
Taggart, who Donlevy described as a “very quiet kid” with a “great attitude”, last week emerged as the most surprising selection in the Socceroos World Cup squad.
Taking the place of injured cult hero Josh Kennedy, the 2013-14 A-League golden boot winner became the side’s youngest inclusion for its 2014 campaign.
This Friday in Brazil, he will experience a pressure cooker like no other when the Socceroos face Chile in front of 40,000 frenzied soccer fan at Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba (6am, Saturday, WST).
It is looking likely coach Ange Postecoglou will grant the Newcastle Jets striker second-half pitch time in Australia’s Group B clashes after he subbed him on late to create a spark in the Socceroos’ 1-0 friendly loss to Croatia last weekend.
Donlevy remembers a kid who’d “miss the easy ones and score all the hard ones”, but was excited to see how dangerous he had become in the professional ranks.
The Scotsman was optimistic about Taggart’s chances of landing a dream goal in Brazil despite the obvious challenge of Australia’s top-flight opponents Chile, Netherlands and Spain.
“If you’re scoring goals, it’s a habit, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing against,” he said.
Donlevy admitted it was a surprise to see Taggart donning a Socceroos strip.
His determination for success was evident from an early age, however.
“He was so focused on his football… he came to training and worked his backside off,” Donlevy said.
“I’m glad to see he’s getting the rewards.
“We can all work hard, but it doesn’t always mean we’re going to get those rewards, but it’s good to see it’s coming off for him.”
As a teenager, Taggart spent time with the National Training Centre squad in Perth before joining the Australian Institute of Sport.
He signed for Perth Glory in 2010, but sought an opportunity with Newcastle in 2012.
The swift attacker has enjoyed a rapid ascension to A-League prominence since then, culminating with a 16-goal season this year and – the big one – World Cup selection.