GRAHAM Arnold rates Ramy Najjarine a "special talent" and believes the Jets - and the Olyroos - will reap rewards if the attacking midfielder is given consistent game time this A-League season.
Najjarine, who is on loan at Newcastle from Melbourne City, and fellow Jets Connor O'Toole, Angus Thurgate and Johnny Koutroumbis are part of Arnold's 26-man Olyroos squad in camp in Sydney this week.
After making his A-League debut for City in November 2018, Najjarine started in just two games last season.
He and O'Toole heeded the advice of Arnold and joined the Jets in search of regular minutes.
While the Jets await the appointment of a new coach, it appears almost certain that the four Olympics hopefuls will have major roles when the A-League season kicks off on December 27.
"Najjarine is a special talent in my view," Arnold said. "He has something that not a lot of players have in Australia. He can open games up quite easily. He has very, very good technique. Again he is a player who needs to get on the pitch and play 26 rounds, get a lot of minutes in his legs and get the rhythm back. Mentally he will start believing in himself and that is a big part for him."
After months of inactivity due to COVID-19, the Olyroos' road to Tokyo resumes on Thursday night with a match against Sydney FC at Jubilee Stadium. They back-up against Macarthur next Tuesday.
Koutroumbis and Thurgate were not part of the Olyroos squad which finished third at the Asian Championships in Thailand to secure a place at the Tokyo Games, but Arnold said their form in the final stages of the A-League warranted selection.
"We have some good young players here that I get to have a look at over the next week," he said "You can watch them in games and see their quality technically and tactically, but one thing you can't learn from a distance is the mentality and their character.
"Johnny Koutroumbis, playing in a back three, was fantastic in the final 10 games last season.
"Angus Thurgate is a player I had in camps before we went to Thailand. He is not a late developer because he is only 20, but the more game time he gets and the more he plays in that more advanced role, the more impressed I am by the runs he makes and the opportunities that he is getting."
Apart from the players assembled in Sydney, Arnold said another 10 overseas-based players were on his Olympics radar.
"I see this as a clean slate," Arnold said. "Thailand (qualifiers) was 11 months ago. It was a completely different group of players. It is a fresh start for everybody.
"What everyone does from today moving forward will be about selection for Tokyo Olympics. It's not a situation where I will be paying players back and saying thank you for what you did in Thailand or earlier on in the piece. It is a fresh start.
"Players need to work hard at their clubs, they need to play at their clubs and they need to perform well. We are only allowed to pick 18 players for the Olympics and three of those can be overage.
"These games, maybe from the outside look like development games. For me it is about these boys taking their opportunity. Individually they can impress for their clubs. As a group this is our fourth last opportunity to get together during FIFA windows before we go to the Olympics"
Arnold said all 26 players would be used during the two friendlies.
"It is only early in the pre-season and we won't put players at risk," Arnold said. "There will be unlimited subs and all players will be given good minutes and an opportunity to impress."
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