When Cameron Devlin signed his first professional contract he described it as the best day of his life.
And he already has plans to help Sydney FC fight for more titles this season.
The Sky Blues start their A-League campaign against Adelaide next Friday night under new coach Steve Corica.
There are also new faces on the pitch, with former Dutch international Siem de Jong and former Premier League striker Adam Le Fondre looking to fill the gaps left by the departed Bobo and Adrian Mierzejewski.
Devlin, from Jannali, was promoted from Sydney FC’s youth team over the winter and rewarded with his first pro deal at the club.
The 20-year-old midfielder has already made his first team debut, coming off the bench in Sydney FC’s FFA Cup semi-final victory over his former club Western Sydney where he spent more than two years.
Devlin, a Sutherland Sharks junior, told the Leader his signing came as a shock having spent a year on the sideline with a broken metatarsal but is keen to make the most of his opportunity.
“It was probably the best day of my life, finding out the news that I was getting signed. I feel like it’s been a long time coming. I’ve put a lot of hard work into it,” he said.
“It was funny how it worked. I was kind of just playing my NPL season with the youth team and felt like I was doing alright. I’d just come off a year-long injury so my focus wasn’t a contract. It was to get back into it and just start enjoying my football again.
“And I knew Sydney FC was a good place to do it, that’s why I came here. I felt like I was doing alright, slowly as I was getting back into it I started training with the first team a bit more.
“The NPL season finished so then I was full-time with the first team, still as a youth player. So it was kind of a trial, day in day out so you’re kind of living the pro life without being a pro yet.
“I knew this was the life I wanted to live so I was giving it my all every day.
“Sydney FC is the best place [for me], it’s such a great environment with a great group of guys. Which for me is the reason why they’ve had such success.
“Personally my goal for the season is to play as much as I can. I feel like it’s fallen into my hands so early in the season to get my debut [in the FFA Cup]. I just want to make the most of it every chance I get.
“It was a massive surprise for me [to play]. Being a young player, just got signed, there’s not many play so early. You’ve got to bide your time. I was willing to do that, I’m happy to do that because we’re such a successful, good club.
“But I feel humbled by the experience, to play in a derby against my old club, in front of my family and friends, a big crowd. It was a crazy experience and one that I will not be forgetting any time soon.”
If Devlin is to get many minutes on the pitch this season he will have earned them given Sydney’s embarrassment of riches in the middle of the park.
Along with de Jong, the Sky Blues boast arguably the league’s best player in Milos Ninkovic as well as Brandon O’Neill and Socceroos Josh Brillante and Daniel de Silva.
The former Young Socceroo also has eyes on a place in the Olyroos squad for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
But the immediate goal is to keep improving every day. Which shouldn’t be difficult for the hungry midfielder given the talents he has to learn from in training.
“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to sign here. The biggest club in Australia, they’ve had the most success, especially recently. They’ve been in the last two grand finals. We’re in a third cup final in a row,” he said.
“[De Jong and Ninkovic], they’re international players. [Ninkovic is] a magician. For me he’s the best player in the league.
“Being with him every day as a teammate, it’s something that’s a dream really. Learning off him every day, seeing what he does. There’s definitely a lot of things I can learn off him.
“And not just Ninko but Siem de Jong as well. Coming from Ajax, he’s a massive player who has played for the Netherlands with some of the biggest players in the world.
“For me with him and Milos in my position, they’re just a different class.”
Sydney FC will play the majority of their home games at Jubilee Oval, Kogarah this season. And Devlin is hoping to be part of a big season at their St George base as the Sky Blues challenge for the league, cup and Asian Champions League titles.
“The goal for us is to win the FFA Cup [first] and also to win the A-League and win the Champions League,” he said.
“There’s no real limit to how good we can be. Yes we’ve lost Bobo and Adrian, they’ve shown that they are top quality players. But we’ve brought in players that have come in, scored goals, done their job and we’re in a final straight away.
“The sky is the limit and hopefully I can contribute as much as I can to the success this season and beyond.”