Garang Kuol vows to bounce back after difficult loan stint at FC Volendam

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Back in Australia as part of a Newcastle United touring squad, Socceroos young gun Garang Kuol says that a difficult loan spell in the Netherlands provided a valuable learning experience on the harsh realities of football.

- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

Kuol, 19, spent the season on loan at FC Volendam, who won just four games on the way to being relegated from the Eredivisie -- only kept off the foot of the table by an 18-point deduction handed down to Vitesse in April.

The young attacker's arrival on the Dutch coast had appeared full of promise, with the club previously attempting to secure him on loan and having given more minutes to players aged under 21 than any other outfit in Europe's top five leagues in 2022-23.

However, turmoil hit Volendam in December, with internal clashes over the club's direction resulting in the ouster of club chairman Jan Smit and the resignation of coach Wim Jonk and most of his staff. Kuol would end up playing just 768 minutes across all competitions during the campaign, with just 32 coming in 2024 after new leaders Regillio Simons and Michael Dingsdag instituted a 5-3-2 system that saw him fall out of favour.

Nonetheless, the five-time Socceroo told ESPN that the challenging period still had its positives.

"It was a good experience," he told ESPN. "I started the season, and you got hit by reality. Things change a lot, new coaches, new staff -- a lot can change in football.

"It's good to experience that and just put it in the backpack and move on.

"Football is not a race, it's a journey. Things happen. You get ups and downs. You've got to you've got to push through it and keep working."

One of the few opportunities that Kuol had to play in 2024 came with the Australian junior national team setup, a part of the Olyroos squad for the AFC Under-23 Championships in April.

However, more misfortune struck as he battled illness across the tournament, taken to hospital for precautionary tests after the opening game against Jordan and receiving limited minutes against Indonesia and Qatar as Australia were eliminated in the group stages.

"It was a very good [experience] but it was unfortunate for me because I found myself in hospital, which stopped me from playing as much as I wanted to," Kuol said.

"We were very disappointed not to qualify for the Olympics. But it's another good experience to have.

"I'm always in contact with people around the [Socceroos] and also Tony Vidmar with the 23s. Checking in on me, how I'm going physically, how I'm going [more generally]."

Now fit and eyeing next season, Kuol is back with Newcastle for their tour Down Under, making his debut for the club as a 71st-minute substitute in a friendly against Tottenham Hotspur in front of 78,419 supporters at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday.

Set to play a larger role in a Friday fixture against an A-League Men All-Star side at Marvel Stadium, discussions are still ongoing on Tyneside about what his next move will be. However, manager Eddie Howe said on Wednesday it was important it was successful.

"It's always very difficult to say for certain what's going to happen with a player at this stage because there's a long way to go before the season starts," Howe said.

"But possibly another loan spell for him will be important. He's had a couple of loan spells now but I think he needs the next one to be a successful one. We need him to play more game time. Hopefully, that'll happen."

For Kuol, the goal is a simple one.

"As I said, football is not a race, it's a journey," he said. "The goal is to play games, develop, to work hard and continue to learn."