He is regarded as one of the world’s most promising young talents, but how did Garang Kuol end up playing in the World Cup in Australia and signing for mega-rich club Newcastle United?
Born in Egypt to Sudanese parents who fled their war-torn country several years ago, the 18-year-old attacking sensation has enjoyed a meteoric rise with A-League side Central Coast Mariners under former Sheffield United midfielder Nick Montgomery.
Now the Socceroos rising star is set for a bright future in the world’s most prestigious league after joining Eddie Howe’s promoted Magpies this month.
One of six brothers, Kuole, a refugee in Australia with his family, joined the Mariners’ impressive training system in January 2021, then led by Montgomery.
Key to the youngster’s development has been the influence of Montgomery, whose work through the Mariners’ youth ranks saw him promoted to first-team manager in July 2021.
“It’s been an amazing journey for a young lad we signed at 16,” Montgomery, whose work with the low-budget Mariners has won the admiration of a number of British clubs, told Lesport24.
“Within 18 months, Garang played in the World Cup with Australia and signed for Newcastle United.
“It’s a bit of a story and I actually signed his older brother Alou, who plays for Stuttgart in Germany, in the same way.
“Alou played for Shepperton, a small club outside of Melbourne.
“We brought Alou to the Mariners and he was also very scrappy and athletic, but he didn’t really understand the game.
“We have signed Alou with our U23 team and within 12 months he has established himself in our first team.
“He was the top scorer in the A-League after 10 rounds – coming off the bench and scoring twice – before Stuttgart bought him.
“I have a younger brother, he’s only 16 and he’s a different player than me, but probably even better,” Alou said when he joined us.
“At that time, I was in charge of the academy and coached the under-20 and under-23 teams of the Mariners.
“I just said, ‘let’s get Garang here’ and we flew him in from Melbourne.
“There are three big A-League clubs in Melbourne – Melbourne City, Melbourne Victory and Western United – and none of them have taken Alou or Garang into their academy because they think they are too raw.
“At the age of 16, we tested Garang and found that this child works with electricity.
“He didn’t really understand the game in terms of team play.
“But my assistant Sergio Raimundo coached at Benfica, one of the best development clubs in the world, and oversaw the development of players like Bernardo Silva and Joao Cancelo at Manchester City.
“Sergio and I saw Garang and said, ‘If we can teach this kid to play in a team, he can be special.’
Montgomery perfected Garang’s skills before making his big debut in December 2021.
Kuol scored within seven minutes of coming on as a substitute in APIA’s 6-0 FFA Cup win over Leichhardt.
Kuol, 17, also made his A-League debut in April 2022 in a 5-0 win over Wellington Phoenix, scoring four goals in his first seven league games.
He was then selected to be part of the 2022 A-League All Stars squad which faced FC Barcelona in front of over 70,000 spectators in Sydney last May.
“It was a big surprise,” Barca coach Xavi Kuol said.
“He is very fast, he created a lot of opportunities and we missed two or three chances because of him.
“He is a great player and he has a great future. It’s a skill.”
Newcastle signed Kuoll last autumn before the player came on Australia’s radar ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.
In mid-September, he became the youngest player to be called up to the Socceroos squad since Harry Kewell in 1996.
His debut against New Zealand made him the sixth youngest player to represent Australia.
Cool helped Australia reach the play-offs of the World Cup and, at 18 years and 79 days, became the youngest player since Pele in 1958 to play in the play-offs of the finals.
After joining Newcastle, the teenager will be loaned out for the second half of the season and could join either the English Premier League or the Scottish Premier League.
Magpies boss Howe recently admitted: “It’s possible that Garang will train with us for a while.
“But I think that for the development of a player, he needs to go out and play.
If possible, it would be at a very good level with a good club and a good coach.”
Montgomery, who was shortlisted for the job at Motherwell last year, will continue to watch his protege’s progress with keen interest.
The 41-year-old Leeds native played for the Mariners between 2012 and 2017 before moving into coaching when he retired.
Montgomery added: “Australia reached the play-offs of the World Cup and a lot of players came from the A-League and are still playing there.
“The A-League doesn’t get the credit it deserves because it’s so far away from the rest of the world.
“I think with Australia progressing through the World Cup, we’ve realized that the A-League has a high standard and produces players who can play at the highest level.
“Karang is a great example of that and everyone at Central Coast Mariners is obviously proud of him.”