Jovanović thriving in prime United environment

Luka Jovanović wraps up a hard morning’s training at the VALO Training Centre, Playford, and then drives all the way down to Henley to attend school, P-plates and all.
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Luka Jovanović wraps up a hard morning’s training at the VALO Training Centre, Playford, and then drives all the way down to Henley to attend school, P-plates and all.

He has already worked hard, sweating through all the training drills and running, while simultaneously absorbing decades of experience in the game from the esteemed coaches and players surrounding him.

He then hits the books, working to complete his education amongst the frantic nature of professional football.

If he doesn’t make it to school in good time, given the likeliness of an extra gym session thrown into the fold, he’ll head home and study through the night.

This is just a regular Tuesday in the life of a 17-year-old who has just scored his first top-flight goal for the Club he has always supported.

To many, the juxtaposition of walking out to thousands of screaming fans in the country’s top stadiums and then making an appearance at school after the weekend would be over-bearing, but Jovanović takes it in his stride.

So when his captain, Craig Goodwin, broke quickly down his left after 43 minutes on Saturday night, he knew he just had to keep calm, and keep running, as he always does.

“With the quality that Goody has I knew I just had to keep going and he would put it on a plate for me,” Jovanović recalled.

“I kind of went blank as I tend to do when I’m through on goal, but I picked my side and took the shot, and fortunately it went in.

“It’s most important as a striker to get the service, that’s why I think we are the most dangerous team in the League right now.

“With Goody and Benny (Halloran) on the wings, Zach (Clough) up there and Nestor (Nestory Irankunda) when he comes on, they’ll find me or anyone up there nine times out of ten.”

Jovanović has memories of his now captain, Goodwin, lifting both the Isuzu UTE A-League Championship and Australia Cup from the stands, and now he has a real shot of standing on the podium alongside him.

The established Socceroo also sent him a big text message of support after his goal, advising the youngster to keep working hard on a path that is sure to yield many goals and match-winning performances.

“It was very motivating to get that message from Goody, he’s someone that has played at the highest level and leads our hometown Club so well,” Jovanović said.

“He’s just a great captain and he got around me at the hotel too which means a lot to a kid on the road.

“He leads by example and he’s always talking to us younger boys at training and keeping us involved which is so important being new to a professional environment.”

His original hero though is his dad, who played professionally for Partizan in Serbia’s SuperLiga.

“Dad has taught me everything,” Jovanović said.

“He was taking me out to train on our own since I was four or five and then out to club training.

“He taught me how to shoot and everything, and while we say between ourselves that we’re not similar on the field, everybody else sees it.

“I’ve always been a striker exactly like dad, that’s just the way we always trained together.”

After progressing from juniors always as a standout, Jovanović has been afforded the keys to thrive in an idyllic United environment containing a fluent attacking style, Socceroos representation, and unstoppable youth.

It’s all supported by a cohesive coaching system with Carl Veart at the helm and wealth of quality assistant coaches beside him.

It flows all the way down to Head of Youth Football, Airton Andrioli, who has aided in the development of the forward since his Under 13 Football SA NTC days.

But he only needs to look to the right of him to see another rising star in the making become a star of the present, the irresistible Irankunda, who is also completing school this year.

“I just look at Nestor, who I’ve played with in the NPL and we’re really good friends,” Jovanović said.

“He gives me confidence when I watch him play because we’re the same age and he makes me believe I can do similar things myself.”

His goal and recent rise to regular A-League appearances are made more meaningful after an anterior cruciate ligament tear ruled him out for the entirety of the 2021 NPL season, in what is the most challenging period of his career to date.

In his comeback season he netted 12 goals in 22 appearances, and this pre-season was a different one for the young attacker in that the intensity was raised and he had to bide his time in the long Australian off-season.

He made his professional debut for United as a substitute in the Club’s 4-2 win against Western United on 6 November 2022.

His growing A-League appearances gave him the assurance to dismantle South Adelaide in the first round of the 2023 RAA NPL season last month, scoring four goals brimming with quality, which were also the most he has scored in a single high-level game.

“My A-League debut was definitely a dream come true, but it is now on me to keep pushing as far as I can in my career and for the team,” he said.

“Since that game against Western United, I’ve just worked and worked and when that opportunity for more minutes came against Melbourne City, I really wanted to prove that I can perform at this level.

“It gave me the confidence to start against the Jets and luckily, I was able to get my first goal.

“It’s been a surreal last month.”

Jovanović’s part in grounding the Jets will give him a sky-high belief for years to come.

Childhood Cancer Association are this week’s Presenting Partner for Adelaide United’s games against Newcastle Jets and Wellington Phoenix in the Liberty A-League and Isuzu UTE A-League respectfully. Click here to donate to their important cause.

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