Tommy Oar: The shining light of FC Utrecht
In a league famous for producing and selling incredible talents, all eyes are on young players such as Memphis Depay, Anwar El Ghazi, Luc Castaignos, Daley Sinkgraven, Georginio Wijnaldum, Jordy Clasie, Terence Kongolo and Adam Maher in the Eredivisie this season, with great things expected of the rising stars. However, there is one relatively understated promising youngster who has so far outshone them all in the Dutch top flight.
FC Utrecht’s 22-year-old winger Tommy Oar has so far been one of the best performers in the league across the nine weeks. Having joined from Brisbane Roar four years ago, the youngster was seen as a very bright talent. Adam Sarota and Michael Zullo also arrived as part of the deal. Zullo was soon loaned to Adelaide United and, after a terrible injury, Sarota has gone back to Australia on loan as he returned out of shape and lacking in pace.
While his fellow Australians have declined, though, Oar seems to be improving each year and is growing into a real star. With the pace and skill evident from his early days in the Galgenwaard, that trajectory is no real surprise, but what has been the biggest surprise so far this season is the immense turnaround in Oar’s style.
A quick winger with decent skill and two good feet, in recent years he tended to cut in too often and unleash a shot towards goal, yet has never scored more than two goals in a single season at Utrecht. In narrowing the play and regularly bringing a disappointing end to his side’s attacks, he hindered the team more often than he should have.
The 2013-14 campaign was a dark one for Utrecht and coach Jan Wouters. Having lost several key players, the team was severely weakened and performing very poorly, particularly away from home. Growing into a more senior player in the team, Oar was seen as one of the key players in helping the team out of the hole they found themselves in, but he had a hard time in doing so and his tendency to go for goal didn’t help in any way.
When the World Cup came around, Ange Postecoglou, who gave Oar his chance in the Brisbane Roar first-team, made him a key part of the Socceroos and the Australians were excited to see their export in action in a major tournament.
Things didn’t go well for Australia and Oar, though, as they lost all of their matches against Netherlands, Spain and Chile and Oar failed to make the difference for a very underwhelming Socceroos team. Perhaps unfairly, considering his age and the difference in quality between his side and their opponents, the campaign in Brazil damaged the winger’s reputation in his homeland, as Australian journalist Dan Colasimone explains to BeNeFoot.
“There’s a perception in Australia that Oar hasn’t really been performing for the national team in recent times. That probably started at the World Cup, where he looked very nervous in the Socceroos’ first game. He improved slightly after that, but was disappointing overall. In recent friendlies he has been quite poor. Against Qatar, especially, his delivery was not up to scratch and he gave the ball away frequently.
“It’s not at the stage where people are calling for him to be dropped or anything, it’s just frustrating, I think, that he isn’t reproducing his club form at international level.”
There was a mild sense of frustration in Oar’s displays at Utrecht last season because of his wastefulness too, but the tone in Australia seems harsh for a player so young.
This season, though, from the very first game, there has been a dramatic and fantastic shift in Oar’s playing style. Whether it is a conscious change from the player or the influence and demands of new coach Rob Alflen is unknown as of yet, but Oar looks a completely different and much more effective and exciting player.
After six games (he has missed three with injury), Oar has created more chances than any other player in the league and is already very close to the number he opened up in each of the last two seasons. Furthermore, he has only fired five shots on goal, four of which came in one game – the victory over second bottom side FC Dordrecht.
Instead of drifting in, he has opted to stay wide on most occasions, putting in some excellent crosses or diagonal passes. Not only are his crosses more frequent – he has made just less than half the number of crosses he put in in each of the last two seasons after just six games – they are much more accurate as well. One in every three of his crosses from open play this year have been successful – perhaps an unsustainable record, but the improvement is already very promising.
This drastic change to Oar’s style and mentality has turned him into a real asset for Utrecht. Not only is the change in the way he plays a good sign, his effectiveness is very impressive. He has been by far his side’s best player this season.
After missing the opening two matches, Oar was back in the starting XI for the meeting with Feyenoord in De Kuip. With the Rotterdam giants 1-0 up and creating more and more chances, it seemed they would likely find another goal and secure the win. However, Oar was able to turn on his charm and set up two goals for the visitors to flip the match around and steal the win.
First, he latched onto a long pass and muscled Ruben Schaken off of the ball, who brought him down to the ground. Oar quickly bounced back up and passed to Nacer Barazite, who slotted in the equaliser in first half injury time.
Then, with 20 minutes left, Oar brought the ball down in his own half and charged upfield with great pace. With his head up, he spotted the run of Rodney Antwi and played a perfect through ball and the youngster was able to net the winning goal.
The finish to each goal was fine, but Oar’s work to create it was excellent.
That brilliant display in De Kuip hasn’t been Oar’s only game changing performance so far, though. In the home game against Groningen, as Utrecht gained possession outside of their box, it was played to Oar in the middle of the half who took it forward before playing a perfect ball over the top which Ruud Boymans was able to slot past Sergio Padt – the match finished 1-0.
Already this season, Oar has picked up five assists – the same amount he made across all of the 31 league games he played in last season, just one less than he collected the season before.
Utrecht have struggled to build any kind of consistency this term, just as they did last, but Oar has quickly shown himself to be a player who can pull them out of a hole and help turn a game in their favour.
That ability will be absolutely crucial this weekend when Utrecht host current league leaders PSV at the Galgenwaard. With the defence considered the weakest part of the team, Oar’s ability to get on the ball and drive forward and look to open up chances will boost his team’s chances of getting something from the Eindhoven giants immensely.
At 22-years-old, he still has a lot of developing to do, but his quick turnaround and his new found effectiveness suggests he will improve a great deal over the course of the season.
Largely a selling league, Oar’s development will see him linked to several top clubs and it’s clear he has a very bright future.
“Growing up in Australia I always followed the Premier League, I watched it every week so it was always my dream to play there. If I had the luxury of choosing a league, the Premier League would be the one I’d go for.”
While he is devoted to improving further in the Eredivisie, it is only a matter of time before Oar makes a move to a top league. While his final level is difficult to judge, Oar’s initial step up to another league would ideally be a mid-table team in England or Spain and he would certainly be a good fit.