SOCCER: He’s only age 16 but Clinton Football Club striker Liam Stephen has already lit up the CQ Premier League and plans to do the same in season 2018.
A former Aberdeen FC Academy player, the Scottish-born striker played his first season of senior football in 2017 after his family moved to Australia in 2013.
Stephen’s family made the move after his dad Michael, who is also a handy football player, was offered a job transfer to Gladstone.
Michael plays locally but could easily play in the CQ Premier League in the eyes of Clinton assistant coach Dan Horton.
The connection between father and son also led to Stephen’s nickname ‘Pistol’ and not just because the youngster is lethal in front of a goal.
“His dad has a killer left foot and was nicknamed Cannon by his teammates, so when Liam came into seniors we were trying to think of a nickname for him since he’s a smaller version of his dad,” Horton said.
“So I came up with Pistol and it stuck.”
There’s no doubting Stephen is a gun on the field, scoring four goals from seven games in reserves and eight goals in 12 appearances in the CQPL during 2017.
His efforts landed him Clinton FC’s Youth Encouragement award last season, while he came third in the Players’ Player Award behind fellow frontman Mitch Innocend and Matt Varnes.
Stephen’s Premier League call-up came in the Round 12 clash away against Nerimbera Magpies, with the crafty striker scoring a goal on debut after only 12 minutes.
“He played Premier League reserves and we were having a bit of trouble scoring goals so we chucked him in and he scored on his first game,” Horton said.
“From there he kept his spot for the second half of the year and did really well.
“We’d all heard about him and knew that he was going to be very good but thought maybe last year would’ve been a bit early for him.
“He handled it perfectly and was really impressive.”
According to Horton, one of Stephen’s main strengths is a level of football intelligence that far exceeds his age.
“His footballing brain just seems a step ahead of most people,” he said.
“He just knows when to makes runs, sees an early pass and just makes everything look so simple.
“He links up with everyone well, he’s very strong for a young kid and like all forwards he doesn’t like getting pushed around.
“The thing I find the most impressive is his finishing – he doesn’t miss much and if he does it’s usually saved. He doesn’t miss the target very often.
“He’s got the makings to be one of, if not the best, players in the competition not only this year but in the future.
“For his age I haven’t seen a kid as good as him in a long time in Rocky or Gladstone.”
An Aberdeen FC fan from an early age, Stephen was snapped up by the Scottish Premiership club’s academy.
“I started following them when I was about five or six. I signed to the academy in under-10s and I was there for three years,” Stephen said.
Aberdeen currently sit in second place on the Scottish Premiership ladder, sandwiched between Scottish football powerhouses Celtic and Rangers.
Far from the frozen pitches of Scotland, Stephen quickly found his feet in the CQPL.
“I really enjoyed it. It was quicker to what I was used to from the previous four years and a lot more physical,” he said.
Capable of striking the ball with both feet, the Gladstone State High School student is looking for more of the same in 2018.
“I’d like to score a fair amount of goals again this season but obviously we want to win the league,” Stephen said.
“I’d like to keep developing a bit of everything in my game as a whole.
“It’s easier for (the coaches) to see what you need to improve rather than yourself.”