OXFORD United goalkeeper Max Crocombe has been named in New Zealand’s preliminary squad for the final stage of qualifying for the Under 20 World Cup.
The 19-year-old is in a group of 26, which will be cut to 20 before the area tournament in Fiji, where the winners will progress to the FIFA Under 20 World Cup in Turkey this summer.
While international recognition is a big honour for the Auckland-born stopper, if he makes the final cut for the qualifiers in March, it would leave Oxford United short of cover in goal.
With No 1 Ryan Clarke ruled out for the season due to injuries to both shoulders, Wayne Brown is the only other senior keeper in the squad, so an emergency loan would be needed.
Brown is also United’s goalkeeping coach and although Crocombe has not yet played a minute of first-team action for the U’s, the veteran is tipping the teenager to have a big future in the game.
“I rate him really highly,” he said. “I think he’s got massive potential and could go all the way. He’s got every chance of getting into the Prem (Premier League).
“He listens well and to be quite honest, I work him so hard it’s ridiculous, but he just takes it. It’s like a dream.
“He’s got an opinion – sometimes I could do without it – but he’s a good kid and I like him.”
The one gap in Crocombe’s CV is experience.
With no reserve team at United, the first-year professional has had no senior football this season.
Brown experienced the same problem when he came in for Clarke at Bradford City this month, where a lack of match sharpness led to an error which cost the U’s a goal.
The 36-year-old believes it is vital for his understudy’s development to play competitive games, which would be helped by the call-up.
Brown added: “We knew it was going to cause problems when we stopped the reserve team, but you’ve got to deal with it.
“The problem is Max needs man football, which means going anywhere on loan, even if it was somewhere like Brackley – that sort of level.
“He just needs that bit of toughening up, because he’s got everything.”
* United have rearranged their npower League Two home fixture with Rotherham for Tuesday, March 5. The original fixture was postponed for safety reasons due to the heavy snow.