Friday, April 27, 2012

EURO2012 on Setanta

Sentanta are going to be running a two phased competition on their Facebook page  called #PredictaBall from next week.

Here is an exclusive heads up of the competition before it goes live next week.
Phase 1 is all about asking people to make some weird and wonderful predictions of what they think ‘might’ happen during EURO 2012.

Anything goes, and Sentanta expect some pretty creative and interesting entries coming in. So go to the Facebook page and make your predictions. 

Ola Greece for the Final!!!!

In Phase 2 subscribers get to pick a prediction and if it happens they could win some great prizes.

Sentanta thought afotballstory readers would be interested. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Generation Next: Costa Andricopoulos

Here is the raw Q & A I did with Aussie youngster Costa Andricopoulos who plays in Cyprus for Anorthosis Famagusta.
In 2009 Anorthosis Famagusta, made the groups stages of the Champions League and at the time that was the greatest achievement in Cypriot football.
Now another Cypriot club Apoel  Nicosia has gone much further having made it out of the group stages then going on further and beating French team Olympique Lyonnais for the right to face Real Madrid in the quarter’s finals.

Australia too has a football connection with Cyprus. Former Socceroo great Paul Okon spent the latter stages of his career at Apoel and recently young Aussie Costa Andricopoulos a former Apoel player is currently playing with Anorthosis Famagusta.
I spent some time with Costa to find out about football and life in Cyprus.  

1) Can you give us a brief synopsis of your time in Cyprus Like opportunities you have had with Anorthosis playing wise and experiences that you have had living in Portugal that changed you?

 During my time with Anorthosis I have been very fortunate to get a few games with the 1st grade squad. I played a full game in a Cyprus cup charity match as well as two other pre-season matches against 1st division teams. Also playing friendly matches against teams like Lokomotive Moscow reserves and getting an assist, Dynamo Kiev reserves, FC Tuggen (Switzerland) 1st grade and FC Luch Energia Vladivostok (Russia) 1st grade has also been a great experience to play against these high profile clubs.

I’ve been in Cyprus nearly 1.5 years now and have adapted well to the European way of life which is very different to back home. Living in Cyprus has made more independent, focused and more determined to achieve my goals. Living by myself and having to fend for myself in another country has been a great experience. Doing things on my own has really opened my eyes.
I don’t have the luxury of my mum to do the chores around the apartment (laughs), so I’m the one that has to do all the cleaning, washing, cooking and shopping which has made me grow up quickly and be more independent.

2) Can you give us some background on yourself like how you got into football, where you played local football in Australia?
 Growing up I was always in the backyard and at the park kicking a football around with my dad, who also played in the NSL in the 1980's. My dad was the one who first introduced me to football, ever since I was a young kid he used to always take me to watch games, also showing me videos and pictures of football. He is the one that made me start playing football and the one I go to anytime for advice. I started playing local park football at the age of seven for Kingsgrove all Stars.

I played local association football up until the age of 10 until Division 1; Super youth and Premier Youth league was introduced. My junior years were with ST George F.C from u13's up until u16's in the NSW Premier Youth League. U18's and u20's were with Apia Leichhardt Tigers F.C were we won the u18's NSW Premier Youth League final and then I signed for West Sydney Berries u20's were I made my 1st grade debut.

3) How did the move to Anorthosis come about?

 The previous season, I signed for Apoel F.C reserves (1st div) were my current coach at Anorthosis reserves had the under 17's at Apoel. That's how it came about. Towards the end of my season at Apoel I got loaned out to their feeder team, Ethnikos Latsion F.C 1st grade for two months along with another player from my team for 1st grade experience.

When the season finished with Ethnikos I went for a three week trial at Doxa Katokopias 1st grade squad (1st div team at the time). I had a very good three week trial, which included friendly matches and team training and the coach was impressed with me and wanted to sign me for this season (2011-12').

I couldn’t sign a contract at that time as he wasn’t officially re-signed as manager yet for the following season as the club were in a state of turmoil as they had just been relegated to 2nd division for the new season, but it looked very positive that he was going to resign as coach. It was offseason in Cyprus so I was told to go back to Australia for two months and to return on the 16th July 2011 to go to preseason camp in Austria for two weeks with the squad.
In Australia around middle of June I found out that the coach didn’t re-sign as the club had changed their whole board of directors and management from the previous season because they got relegated from 1st div. I got a call from my current coach now at Anorthosis asking if I wanted to sign with the reserves there for this season, so here I am.

4) What is it like living in Cyprus? What do they think of Aus football? I know Paul Okon played in Cyprus for a little bit.

 The lifestyle in Cyprus is very relaxed. The people here are very laidback and carefree. There are a lot of cafes here and they’re full of people pretty much every day at any time. They view Aussie footballers as very tall and physical players. They don’t know a great deal about Aussie football like the A League because it does not get show n on TV here, but they know a few of the big name players like Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill and Mark Swarzcher because they play in the English Premier League. I showed a few of my team mates some pictures and videos of the some of the A League and NSW premier league matches and stadiums on the internet and they were really impressed with the level of quality.

Yes Paul Okon played here in Cyprus for Apoel Nicosia F.C (team I was at last season) for about one season in 2005. He is well known and rated very highly here in Cyprus. When he was coaching at Apia Leichardt Tigers F.C 1st grade three  years ago in the NSW Premier League I was in the u20's squad and was training up with 1st grade team under him and played a few pre season matches with them. During that time Paul invited me to be part of the train on squad of the u18's Australian National Team for the Australian Youth Olympic Festival that was held in Sydney. He was the head coach of that squad.

5) What do you hope to achieve in your football career?

 Since a young kid my dream was to play professionally overseas in Europe so I’m very happy to have played nearly 1.5 years now in Cyprus in a full-time professional environment.
I would like to stay in Europe another couple of years and keep progressing and getting more 1st grade experience and then would like to try my luck in the A-League or in Asia. I got a taste of the u18's Australian national team set up at the AYOF a couple of years back so I would like to represent the national team at some international level.

6) There are a lot of young players like your good self that are going straight to Europe and by-passing the A-League. Can you tell us if any A-League teams approached you? If not what was the reasoning for you to play in Cyprus compared to playing in the A-League?

 I have not been approached by any A League clubs as yet, I have been to a few sessions over the last few years with a few A League youth clubs like Sydney FC for 2 months and the Newcastle Jets when I was 17. A lot of young players are bypassing the A League and going straight overseas because there are more opportunities for players to play professionally abroad.

I think once players in Australia reach a certain age in their careers they get frustrated and decide to try their luck overseas. There are not enough teams in the A League for players to go to and the ones that do generally come from AIs or NSWIS. I think the A League is getting better and better each year with the amount of quality players that are coming from Europe and Asia. I think it still needs another three-four teams to give more home-grown players opportunities as well as another couple of years for the league to keep progressing and growing.

 I would love to play in the A League someday, but for now I have to keep focused and keep working and progressing here in Europe. After my season finished with the West Sydney Berries in 2010 I sent my football DVD and resume to Cyprus to a contact through the AESFA and got a few trials. Nothing was happening as far as A League opportunities so it was an easy decision for me to go overseas and see if I could a gig in a professional set up. I've loved every minute of it, waking up every morning and training in a professional environment is a dream come true. I can’t imagine doing anything else. 

7) How do you relax away from football?
 In my spare time away from football I like to relax on the computer by watching movies and Skyeping with friends and family. I also enjoy going to the city centre of Limassol and go for a coffee or dinner with some friends. The people are very friendly and it’s also very helpful that I’m fluent in Greek so I can understand the Cypriot language pretty well most of the time. 

8) What kind of person are you? Describe yourself in a few words?
 I would describe myself as dedicated, hardworking and ambitious. I always put in 100% in whatever I do and always want to strive for more.

9) What is a usual week for you? Can you give us an insight into a week as a player for Anorthosis on and off the field?

 I usually wake up at 8:30 every day except for Sundays. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursday mornings the first thing I do is I go training at the park (not with the team) and do my own programme of running and sprint work. 

A usual week of training consists of Monday- Morning session at the gym with the team (stretching and recovery session), followed by afternoon team training, Tuesday- Afternoon team training and video session, Wednesdays- Afternoon team training, Thursdays- day off, usually just do a light gym session or a yoga class followed by a massage,
Fridays- Short afternoon team session in preparation for weekends match. It’s usually a Saturday match so we have a pre match meal at our club before every game regardless if it’s home or away. In the odd occasion that we play on Sundays we have a very light session on Saturday morning. Sundays is usually a free day so I tend to hang out a cafe in the city centre of Limassol with a few friends watching the football.

I also spoke to newly appointed Young Socceroos coach Paul Okon about his time in Cyprus and what he thought of Andricopoulos.
"Cyprus was a very different experience but one I'm grateful to have had. Apoel is a big club with great supporters.

Costa is a good kid with a great attitude who is more than capable on the ball."

Generation Next Bailey Wright Interview

Here is an interview I did with Aussie Youngster Bailey Wright who has been getting some game time for Preston North End recently. This first appeared in Goal Weekly.

1) Can you give us some background on yourself like how you got into football, where you played local football in Australia?

I first started playing when I was four--five years old for my club down the road at Langwarrin Soccer Club  which is  based on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria.  I played there for a good few years and had my Dad coach me for a few years there before I moved to Mornington for one season. I  then moved to Dandenong Thunder when I was 13 for a season,  then I got selected for the Victorian Institute of Sport  and I was there for 2 years. Before my time there was finished I went back to Langwarrin to play for a half a season before eventually making the move to Preston North End.

2) How did the move to Preston North End come about?

Well I had got a trial with Blackburn Rovers and with Preston just before Christmas 2008, I almost cancelled my trial with Preston due to getting called up to the under 17 the Under 17 National team the Joeys. When I did get to England I did manage to get one training session in with Preston before my trial at Blackburn, for me it wasn’t to be at Blackburn and I was fortunate enough to have  been offered a two year scholarship with Preston. The reason the trials came about was because I didn’t see much of  a future for myself in football in Australia and had talked to my family about quitting football and taking up a trade or to go and work with my Dad which at the time I was already doing. My Dad said to me would you like to give England one last chance before you threw it away?, so I did and now the rest is history, so I owe a lot to my Dad for giving me the chance to come over.

3) What is it like living there and how do you quell the homesickness?

It’s different, especially in the winter time, it took time to adjust training in the ice cold and snowy weather but its like most things in life, you adapt and get used to it. and if I’m being honest, homesickness was never really much of an issue for me, when I came to Preston I lived in what they call a DIGS accommodation and all 19 youth team lads all lived in the one big house, we had Joan and Mick, a married couple look after us and a lady who cleaned whose name was also Joan.

4) How did you get used to the professorial environment in England and what were the differences to level you faced in Australia?

The big different for me was the quality players showed on the ball, the pace of the game is quicker but for me it was how good players were on the ball and how you got punished if you don’t keep the ball and if you make a mistake. Because if you did make a mistake, you would most likely get punished for it because of how good some teams and players are at scoring goals.

5) What do you hope to achieve in your football career?

I would love not only win trophies at the highest level, Uefa Champions League, Premier League, World Cup , for any young lad you always look and think I would love for that to b me and for me I would love to achieve that more than anything else.

6) There are a lot of young players like your good self that are going straight to Europe and by-passing the A-League. Can you tell us if any A-League teams approached you? If not what was the reasoning for you to play in England compared to playing in the A-League?

if I had of been offered something from an A League club than maybe I would of never have gone to the UK, but I was never approached or offered anything from any clubs, and if I am being honest, I’m glad I didn’t because it gave me the opportunity to play over here which is arguably the best set up for football in the world.

7) How do you relax away from football?

Well we don’t get a lot of time off but usually I get my feet up and chill out around the house, I love my films so I like to get to the cinema or watch a film at the house. bit of a boring person really.

8) What kind of person are you? Describe yourself in a few words?

I would say I am a hard working, self motivated and committed person, I like to do my best in everything because I  take pride  in what I do, and how I do things. I would also include my favourite quote in that my Dad told me: “fail to prepare, then prepare to fail” It’s stuck with me ever since.

9) What is a usual week for you? Can you give us an insight into a week as a player for Preston North End on and off the field?

It’s hard to say because it can change so regularly, most days we train in the morning and sometimes we  have a weight session in the afternoon depending when our next game is, sometime you have reserves games Wednesday and first team games Saturday or sometimes the first team play Sat/ Tues so all depends on our games, its hard work but it is the best job in the world.

10) Preston was relegated from the Championship what was that like and does this mean more game time for you this season?

Everyone who plays football will tell you it’s the worst feeling getting relegated, it wasn’t good because the club was forced to make changes, this meant  some staff getting made redundant and some players being sold, we have got a good team now though and have been getting good results, hopefully we can win this league and go straight back into the Championship. I haven’t played in the league yet this season but hopefully I get the chance , the season is still early, I have played in the Carling Cup against Southampton which was a good test for me.

11) Can you give us a brief synopsis of your time in the UK? Like opportunities you have had playing memorable games or experiences that you have had living in the UK that changed you?

I have had a few opportunities I thought I would never get, I’ve played against the Manchester  United, senior team in a behind doors friendly in which we kept a clean sheet when they had Michael Owen and Macheda up front that was an experience just being at the Manchester United training ground. I’ve played in the Carling Cup and in the Championship, which again I never thought I would ever get the chance to do.  I hope to experience one of the best things in football soon and that is hopefully being promoted by winning our league! Being offered my professional contract was also a very big highlight for me.

I would also say that a really good thing about UK is the quality of coaches you have in the UK, I had Dean Ramsdale and Jamie Hoyland coach me as a youth team player who are both top top class coaches who I learnt a lot of and who where the ones that  signed me at Preston, I have also been lucky enough to have David Unsworth as our first team coach who I also have learnt a lot off. He has played at the highest level possible with Everton.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Aussies Abroad Month In Review March

Greetings to all!! Compiled by Damian Davies
A lot to report this month with many of the European leagues starting to get to the final one or two months of the season.  The big Asian leagues are back in action with many Aussies now playing in Korea.  The number of Aussies playing in Asia continues to grow as evident in the latest transsfer listing.  On a sour note, many of our players are out with niggliing injuries at the moment. 
Transfers :-    . A number of Aussies now find themselves on European club lists via the Genova International Soccer School (GISS).  The push to Asia, particularly Thailand, continues to be strong as the Hyundai A League winds down for another season.  
Additions/changes to database: -      
Jake Adelson (1996) - transferred to Everton, England
Andrew Barisic (22 Mar 1986) - transferred to Arema, Indonesia  (IPL)
Matthew Bryne (5 Jun 1992) - transferred to Donji Siem, Serbia
Nick Feely (9 May 1992) - loan to Clyde FC, Scotland
Scott Gannon (12 Mar 1988) - transferred to Amicale, Vanuatu
Aleksander Jovanovic (4 Aug 1989) - transferred to BEC Tero Sasana, Thailand
Aaron Lennox (19 Feb 1993) - loan return to QPR, England
Grant Maddern (20 May 1993) - transferred to CFR Cluj, Romania
Dylan Mernagh (1 Jul 1991) - transferred to Waterford United, Ireland
Zac Paraskevas (1995) - transferred to Portogruaro, Italy
Paul Reid (6 Jul 1979) - transferred to Insee Police United, Thailand
Brendon Santalab (9 Sep 1982) - transferred to Chongqing Lifan, China
Taylor Tombides (TBC) - transferred to West Ham, England
Jack Turner (3 Mar 1992) - transferred to CFR Cluj, Romania
Chris Vartaci (8 Jul 1992) - transferred to CFR Cluj, Romania
Chris Velluto (13 mar 1995) -  transferred to Portogruaro, Italy
Daniell Zeleny (19 Oct 1988) - transferred to Greski United, Indonesia (ISL)
Removed from database:-   
Laurence Braude (26 May 1989) - returned to US college system
Iain Fyfe (3 Apr 1982) - transferred to Adelaide United
Tyson Holmes (9 Nov 1987) - transferred to Sunshine Coast, QSL
Michael Matricciani (15 Mar 1986) - transferred to Metrostars, SAFL
Ricky Zucco (2 Sep 1990) - transferred to NSW
Club Level:-    
England (Premier League) – Thirty-nine year old Mark Schwarzer continues in goal at Fulham.  An inconsistent month with a mixture of clean sheets and some narrow defeats.  Tim Cahill has certainly not been as productive this season as in previous campaigns.  He continues to start at Everton, and did score in a cup tie, but not the output that has been seen in the past. Chris Herd is back in the starting eleven at Aston Villa, having now made 12 starts for the season, he has certainly made great strides at club level. Forgotten keeper, Brad Jones, continues to ply his trade in the Liverpool reserves.
England (Championship) – Adam Federici's form across his forty starts this season has been exceptional at Reading.  So much so that his team have moved into an automatic promotion postion.  Would be fantastic to see Fed finally step up to the Premier League after dominating at Championship level.  The next month will be critical.  Our Aussies at Middlesbrough had indifferent months due to injury.  Rhys Williams went down mid March and faces a length break with an ankle problem.  Scott McDonald returned late in the month after an eight week injury lay off.  Mile Jedinak continued his promising first season in England (until sidelined with a groin injury), scoring his first goal during March.  Neil Kilkenny has had several starts for Bristol City during the month, but faces a big relegation battle over the final month of the season.  Shane Lowry has overcome injury problems as well to return to the starting eleven at Millwall.
England (League One) – With majority of the games in hand now played, unfortunately we didn't see a late run up the table from Oldham Athletic.  Alex Cisak was the number one keeper until injury struck him down as well late in the month.  Opening the door for fellow Aussie Dean Bouzanis to make his starting debut. Young defender Bailey Wright has now made several starts for Preston North End.
England (League Two) – Shane Cansdell-Sheriff (Shrewsbury Town) has returned to the starting side as his team fight for automatic promotion.  Another Aussie back starting is Jamie Young at Aldershot.  Undefeated in their past five outings as they make a late charge with Jamie back in goals
Italy (Serie B) – Carl Valeri has been seeing restricted minutes over the past few weeks, in and out of the starting eleven at Sassuolo.
Italy (Serie C1) - Veteran Max Vieri (Prato) has turned back the clock and is currently in the starting eleven.  Having now scored three times in his eight appearances, March was a positive change in fortunes.
Italy (Serie C2) – Having now chalked up nearly 2000 minutes of game time this campaign, Christian Esposito (FC Catanzaro) is having the type of season that will give his career a kick along after being consistently injured over recent seasons.    
Germany (Bundesliga) – March saw Nikita Rukavytsya take his season starts to eleven.  Although his team are struggling, he is certainly getting good game time in a quality league.  Mitch Langerak (Borussia Dortmund) continued his roll as understudy to Weidenfeller.   
Netherlands (Eredivsie) – Aston Villa bound Brett Holman had an eventful month, scoring in a UEFA tie, getting a red card, and continuing to provide many assists.  Tommy Oar returned from injury and to the scoring charts at Utrecht, whereas Michael Zullo spent the month predominately as a squad member. Jason Davidson made his long awaited debut for Heracles.
Netherlands (Eerste) - Andrew Marveggio made his starting debut for SC Telstar, but didn't see the game out after being red carded. His older brother Ryan has been on the bench eight times but is yet to make his debut.
Scotland (Premier) – Ryan McGowan is another young player to be experiencing a break out season.  He continues in the starting eleven at Hearts, scoring again from his defensive position in March.
Scotland (Third division) – Young Western Australian keeper Nick Feely is now getting first team experience at Clyde FC.  He is starting keeper while on loan from Celtic.
Greece (Super League) – Apostolis Giannou's season continues to gain momentum as he has now made four starts for PAOK.  
Turkey (Super Lig) – James Troisi has now scored nine times in his 22 starts.  Continuing his most impressive season at senior level.
Portugal (Liga de Honra) – a challenging month for Caleb Patterson-Sewell (Atletico Clube Portugal). He has started every game this season, but his team have been defeated in their past three outings.  
France (CFA) - the February form of Kearyn Baccus has seen him gain a permanent place in the starting team at Le Mans II. 
Austria (Bundesliga) - James Holland (Austria Wien) has been in and out of the starting team during March.
Austria (1. Liga) - Striker Richie Cardozo has made his starting debut at LASK Linz
U.A.E. (UFL) – mainstay Lucas Neill (Al Jazira) continues to impress in his first season.  Both Neill and Bresciano are playing in the Asian Champions League for their respective club sides.
China (Super League) - the season is now a little over a month old with Joel Griffiths (Shanghai Shenhua) starting well, partnering Nicholas Anelka.  Other Aussies to start most weeks so far are Mile Sterjovski (Dalian Aerbiu), Jonas Salley (Shanghai Shenxin) and Dino Djulbic (Guizhou Renhe).
Japan (J- League) - early days, however Josh Kennedy (Nagoya) , Alex Brosque (Shimizu), Jade North (Consadole Sapporo) are all playing 90 minutes each weekend.
Korea (K-League) - many Aussies now playing great minutes each week.  Will be interesting to see if any players use this as a launching pad into Socceroos calculations as trail blazer Sasa Ognenovski has done over recent seasons.
Hong Kong (HKFA 1st) - our Aussies starting each week are Karl Dodd (TSW Pegasus), Nenad Vekic (Tuen Mun) and Dean Evans (Sham Shui Po).
India (I-League) – the Tolgey Olzbey (East Begal) scoring machine rolls on, now up to 15 goals. Matthew Mayora  has started his club career at Shillong Lajong.
Indonesia (Super League) - in terms of game time, Steve Hesketh (Arema) and Robbie Gaspar (Persib) have been the best achieving Aussies. 
Malaysia (Super League) - Michael Baird and Brendan Gan continue to start and score for mid table Sabah.
Uruguay (Primera) - Richard Porta is back in Uruguay and scoring again for Nacional
Uzbekistan (Premier) - David Carney is finally getting much needed game time at Bunyodkor
Injuries:-    The list of players with minor injuries is very extensive at the moment.  Given the important end of season games across Europe, hopefully the likes of Jedinak, Williams, Cisak and Kruse can get back on the park.
Club Competitions:-
(UEFA Champions League) No Aussies remain.
(UEFA Europa League) Brett Holman scored during AZ's fixture as AZ progressed to the semi finals.
(AFC Cup) - Both Tolgey Ozbey (East Bengal) and Andrew Barisic (Arema) appeared for their clubs.
(Asian Champions League) - half a dozen Aussies appeared during the early stages with Lucas Neill, Mark Bresciano, Josh Kennedy, Milan Susak, David Carney and Sasa Ognenovski all getting starts.
Reserves and Youth:-    No Aussies appeared in the "NextGen Series". Ryan Williams continues to impressive in the Fulham reserves.  Some significant progress in Germany with Nedim Basic (Wuppertaler) and James Stojcevski (Karlsruher) regulars in the youth teams.
International level :-    The Socceroos were not in action during March.  The Olyroos did complete the failed qualifying campaign for the London Olympics, failing to score in their last six fixtures.