From Sydney FC Academy To The Premier League

Screams emanating from a Northern Beaches home at 6am last Friday signalled yet another A-Leagues first for Sydney FC.

Cameron Peupion’s family cheered and cried as the 20-year old made his English Premier League debut in the 85th minute for Brighton & Hove Albion – making him the first player from any A-League Academy to graduate to the best league in the world.

It was a proud moment for the Peupion clan and everyone at Sydney FC who were involved in his development.

“His rise to the Premier League is outstanding, but not surprising from an athlete who is so dedicated to his craft,” said Junior Academy Manager Nick Susko.

“We’re all so proud of the young man he’s become and super excited to see what his future holds.”

It was Susko and Sydney FC National Premier League Head Coach Jimmy van Weeren who brought a 13-year old Cameron into the Sky Blues Academy from Manly United in the inaugural year.

“We were fortunate enough to be asked to join the Academy as coaching staff in 2015 and many of the players in the program at Manly were recruited at the same time.

“Jim and I were lucky enough to work with the 2002 age group in the first year, which included Pat Wood [current Sydney FC first team player] and Cam Peupion.”

Peupion stayed with the Academy for the next five years developing into the player who would eventually make the jump overseas.

“Cam was a great dribbler and enjoyed taking players on and creating attacking opportunities,” continued Susko.

Peupion with Jimmy van Weeren before he left for Brighton

“He was very proactive in taking the game to the opposition and trying to make things happen for his team,” he added.

“He was a later developer and worked extremely hard in those early years against older and bigger opponents, but he was resilient and dedicated and had the tenacity to hang in there when things got tough.”

It’s a scenario Susko revealed is the case with a lot teenagers who develop later than some of their peers.

One season in particular he struggled matching it with boys who were bigger and stronger but both Peupion and the club persevered.

“Despite the fact that there were players that were bigger, faster and stronger than him, we chose to persist because we saw his talent,” Susko said.

“We wanted to work with him through his growth spurt so he was able to reach his potential on the other side,” Susko said.

“The club has a real philosophy about nurturing talent, nurturing people through the high’s and low’s of youth football and giving them opportunities, despite tough times and adversity.

“When Cam came through his growth spurt, we really started to see him excel, as he was well equipped to deal with physical challenges, and was ultimately able to showcase the X-factor that he has in his game.”

After beginning to shine in the Sky Blue, Peupion began earning himself call ups to the Australian Youth National Teams and was part of the Joey’s side that went to the FIFA U17 World Cup.

“Cam was in and out of the national team set up and was super hungry to go to the Under 17 World Cup in 2019,” Nick Susko said.

Peupion with the Academy playing against the Wanderers

“True to his work ethic, he cemented himself in the squad for the World Cup and started almost every game, garnering interest from clubs around the world.”

After the World Cup the call came from Brighton and Hove Albion and following a successful two-week trial in England, his bags were packed for good.

Swapping Sky Blue for the Blue and White of the Albion right at the start of the pandemic, Peupion found himself in the Under 18’s and then the Under 21’s.

It was there the skillset he gained at Sydney FC served him well.

“The squad we had at Sydney FC [in 2019]… we ended up winning the National Youth League,” he told KEEPUP’s Sacha Pisani.

“Some really good players came from that like (Marco) Tilio, Jake Hollman, Pat Yazbek.

“I could name heaps of players who came from that NYL team. They are playing all over Australia and Europe as well,” Peupion said.

Yazbek now plays for Viking FK in Norway after graduating from the Sydney FC Academy

“It was super competitive every day, every training was as competitive as here (Brighton).

“Everyone wanted to win. It set you up really good.

“I came over here and it was the same environment in terms of playing, wanting to push for the first team.

“Players wanting to push for the next level, always wanting to win training.”

It’s that focus on bringing the best out of the players within their system which makes Sydney FC’s Academy the best in the country.

Creating match winning plays at either end of the pitch through a goalscoring focus is key, as Susko explains.

“Our midfielders and attackers get better at creating and scoring goals whilst our defenders are aiming to become experts at preventing goal scoring opportunities,” Susko said.

“We take a strength based approach with our players and look at the weapons or X-factors they have in their game.

“Using our training methods, we attempt to embellish their X-factors and make their weapons really shine through and become the cornerstone of their game.”

It helped Peupion shine and in Brighton’s under 21’s and he was invited to train with the first team earlier this season.

He found himself in the matchday squad for the Carabao Cup 2nd Round clash with Forest Green Rovers.

“The squad comes out and your name is on there,” he said.

“You’re thinking, ‘oh my gosh potentially on the bench’. Then you’re on the bench. I just remember buzzing to be part of it.

“I was warming up just hoping my name would get called and it did.”

Peupion didn’t just make his debut, he was involved in the third and final goal as he got an assist to seal Brighton’s progression to the third round.

“It was one of the last kicks of the game,” he recalled. “I was just running around most of the game trying to do something then managed to get my opportunity.

“Lucky there was a few of the boys who I’d played with quite a bit over the two seasons in the 23s. We all linked up for the goal, which was quite nice. We all celebrated together. It was a special goal.”

Following this moment, it appeared that a switch flicked in the midfielder’s head and he began to show what he was capable of.

Scoring a hat-trick in one Under 23s match, the Australian then earned the Premier League 2 Player of the Month Award.

It capped off a brilliant month of April where he scored six goals and assisted three for the U23’s.

It drew the attention of Brighton’s First Team Manager Robert De Zerbi.

Peupion in action against Newcastle United

De Zerbi’s playing style is becoming the talk of the Premier League and everyone is looking at the talents that he is unearthing with many linked with big money moves in the European summer.

And this Italian mastermind sees the talent in a young 20-year-old from Sydney FC’s Academy. Crazy when you think about it.

Before long, it was time for the young Australian to show what he can do, and what bigger place to do it than at the home of Champions League side Newcastle United and St James’ Park.

As the clock ticked over to 85 minutes, Peupion made his entrance. An entrance that began all those years ago at Manly United and developed even further in the Sydney FC Academy.

All those years of hard work, the late nights, the training after school in Sky Blue colours, the move to England and the consistency through the Brighton Youth Teams.

So you can see why that meant so much to Cam but to his family too, who 17,000km away from the ground, probably woke up the neighbours with their jubilation.

And from the man himself, Peupion isn’t going to be forgetting that night in Newcastle any-time soon.

“It really was a dream come true. It’s definitely a night I’ll always remember. Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity again,” he told Brighton’s website.

“Everyone who grows up playing football dreams of playing in the Premier League so to be given that opportunity means a lot.

“I’ve been on the bench a couple of times and now I’m buzzing to have been put on the pitch.

“I wasn’t sure if I would make my Premier League debut this year but people kept telling me to work hard, keep my head down and always be ready.

“I’m happy to have been given this opportunity and I’ll keep pushing now.”

And as for the coaches who recognised his talent all those years ago, it doesn’t come as a shock to them.

“We are always looking to work with players with some sort of X-factor or qualities that make them unique.

“We look for something that we feel can take them the distance in the game and our job is to help them reach that potential,” Nick Susko concluded.

And that was certainly the case with Cam Peupion, from Sydney’s Northern Beaches to the Premier League with plenty more still to come.

Just a warning Northern Beaches residents, you could hear some more noise from the Peupion household in the coming weeks.