Sheffield Wednesday v Barnsley - Socceroo determined to make impression with the Owls

LIKE most younger brothers, new Sheffield Wednesday signing Massimo Luongo used to get bossed around by his elder sibling in his formative years.

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Adulthood is invariably the precursor to calmer relations between brothers and it is no different for the Luongo boys, two soccer-mad youngsters whose passion in their home city of Sydney was for the beautiful game and not the main sport of rugby league, pre-eminent across New South Wales and most of Australia’s eastern seaboard.

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Welcome to the Owls: Sheffield Wednesday new signing Massimo Luongo. Picture: Steve Ellis

Growing up in the tough district of Redfern in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, Massimo and big brother Tiziano both pursued footballing dreams – with the latter being a highly-regarded defender with professional hopes until injury struck.

After casting aside the disappointment of seeing his own sporting hopes flounder, Tiziano is living his own dream through his kid brother and the pride will have been manifest when he saw him on parade in the blue and white jersey of the Owls at his unveiling at Hillsborough on Thursday.

Luongo, hoping for involvement in this afternoon’s derby with Barnsley – most likely from the bench – told The Yorkshire Post: “My brother was all right (as a player) but at an older age in a different position.

“He was a hard centre-back kicking people and I was more of the fancy No 10 that everyone wants and we were completely different.

Sheffield Wednesday new signing Jacob Murphy. (Picture: Steve Ellis)

“I am two years younger than him and I almost played against him a few times, but his injuries stopped him from playing full-time.

“We never played together; him being the older brother, he would never let that happen! But we were in the same school and they take their sport quite seriously.

“He was a couple of years older than me. He would not let me beat him if he had his choice.

“I know he is really proud of me. He used to push me around and stuff as an older brother, but when you are a man, it is a different feeling and he is definitely always backing me.”

Sheffuield Wednesday new signing from Hamburg, David Bates (Picture: Steve Ellis)

After cutting his teeth as a youngster in Sydney with junior teams Queen’s Park and St George, Luongo kicked on further at Leichhardt and Sydney Olympic, where his performances attracted the attention of Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur in early 2011.

He joined a star-studded Spurs academy including the likes of Harry Kane and Ryan Mason, but his hopes of making the first-team grade never truly materialised, despite working his way up to Under-21s captain.

His sole senior appearance came as a substitute in a League Cup tie at Stoke City in the autumn of 2011 and after carving out his reputation as a versatile, high-velocity midfielder at Swindon Town and QPR, he is now finally ready to make his mark at a grand old name in English football.

On his early spell in England, Luongo added: “I was young and never really involved in the Spurs first team. I had a little spell under Harry (Redknapp) where I was in and around it, but that was at the old training ground and when they went to the new one, I felt I was never really there.

“This is my first feel of being a first-team player at a big club.

“I am from the Eastern Suburbs and I think it is now massive news that I have signed here. I think everyone is pushing me to do well.”

An ‘airy-fairy’ No 10 he may have admitted to being as a young footballer back home in Australia, but these days, Luongo is a mature and highly capable midfielder comfortable with playing in a holding role – as he did at QPR last season – and also equally adept in an advanced box-to-box position.

But it is in the latter department where he believes that his talents are best served. “Ultimately, I am box to box midfield and want to help in both penalty areas and create things,” said the 26-year-old.

“But I also do like a tackle, to work hard and to try and get about the pitch. I think that is the most important thing and I throw my body weight around.

“Ultimately, I think in this style of football, I want to be that player who is up and down and can aid the defence, but try and create some stuff in the other box.

“Last year was difficult and we did not have an identity until about six games in. Then we realised we were a counter-attacking team and needed to be two banks of four and we had an exceptional No 10 and two holders.

“It was forced upon me to have a bit of discipline and try and not expose the centre-backs as much. It worked for most of the season and I am quite flexible in any formation.

“Last season brought a false perception of me as we were quite defensive. The previous season under (Ian) Holloway, it was more expansive and I had more licence and got a few more goals.

“That is what I want to do and I always want to push to get more goals.”

Aiming to establish himself as a important cog in the Owls’ wheel during 2019-20 may be Luongo’s primary motivator, but remaining a key part of the Socceroos set-up by playing regular football with Wednesday was another facet in the decision-making process which saw him head north to the Steel City of Sheffield.

Entering the final year of his contract at Rangers and with his future uncertain under head coach Mark Warburton, Luongo grasped the opportunity to start afresh with both hands, with a three-year deal offering him valuable security for the Australian as he approaches the peak years of his career.

Family and friends on the other side of the world will be watching the latest chapter of his footballing journey with keen interest and hope, from his older brother to his football-daft father Mario – who has Italian heritage – and his mother Ira, who is originally from Indonesia.

Yet, when it comes to his footballing affinities, the green and gold of Australia is the one that was always ingrained in the soul of Luongo.

He said: “My dad is Italian and my mum is Indonesian and they met in Australia. It is crazy and my wife is English. My little boy has got everything in him.

“But Australia is home and not playing for them is not an option I would have ever pursued.”