Is he the Cannon's secret weapon?
Interview with Arthus Pappas, the coach of the Oakleigh Cannons FC
In the off season of 2010 Oakleigh Cannons made a bold decision to hand over the reigns of their senior team to untried head coach Arthur Papas.
Many in the Victorian Premier League were asking, 'Arthur who? Who is this guy? Has he coached before? Where did he play?' By the age of 25 Arthur Papas' playing career was over having already undergone six knee surgeries.
At 30 years of age he is now the youngest head coach to work in the VPL and oversees some players on his roster older than he is. Digging a little deeper into the CV of Arthur Papas it becomes apparent the decision made by Oakleigh Cannons was a calculated one and could become one of the most inspired decisions made by a football club in a long time.
Arthur had been based in Canberra from 2009 at the Australian Institute of Sport completing a Men's Football Scholarship working with Jan Versleijen and Gary Van Egmond under the mentorship of FFA technical director Han Berger.
He is the only Victorian to have coached Australian National Youth teams since the implementation of the FFA National Pathway. He is currently finishing a Masters in Sports Coaching and an AFC A license and has a learned background in Applied Science specialising in Exercise science. The doubters were saying, 'he has all the theory and he sounds intelligent but wait until the season starts, it's different at the coal face.'
Arthur Papas has been at the coal face for 11 games now, one game away from the half way mark of the season and he has Oakleigh Cannons sitting on top of the ladder. Arthur has in fact a very strong knowledge of the Victorian Premier League having worked as an assistant coach at Altona Gate and Melbourne Knights and possesses an incredible knowledge of players in the lower leagues.
Sitting down and having a conversation with Arthur and discussing football is like having a huge Google search engine at your disposal. I throw a player's name from the State two league and he quickly responds, "good player for that level but won't take the next step". Confidence has never been a problem for Arthur and the hardest pressure he feels is the pressure he places on himself. "I place high expectations on my own ability.
You want to have control of the whole environment and at VPL it's difficult at times. An experienced coach would get more time at VPL level. I felt as a young coach I had no time, I had to produce from day one. I handled all the recruiting.
If I am accountable for the results I want the players that I choose. Some may not be the biggest names but they suit my vision of football and I feel Oakleigh in the past have signed players on reputation and not on their needs." He further adds "we play football for the best chance of results. I take in consideration the state of my pitch. It's on a needs basis. I can ask Zoisy (Goalkeeper Peter Zois) to play from the back but if the pitch is bumpy and the defender loses the ball in the box that's not going to help my team.
My method of training is the same. I work with the ball at all times. My teams play a high intensity game based on quick ball movements. We suffocate the team by pressing. We press high up the ground and attack specific weaknesses in the opposition." Statistics fly out in conversation when I press Arthur for an opinion on how his team has performed at the near half way mark of the season.
He rates his team's performance up to this stage a seven out of 10. "We are an attacking team. We average 2.1 goals per game from 10 different goal scorers making us not reliant on one goal scorer and we have had 4 clean sheets out of 11 games. I am also proud of the fact we have five lads 21 years-old and under starting every week. Bryan Bran is the only Under 20 Australian player outside of the A League clubs selected. That's success."
Arthur has found the extra duties of a senior coach challenging and different to the controlled environment of the AIS. Management of people, the board and supporters and dealing with media has been an interesting experience. He has learned that when decisions are made there are consequences and that statements are interpreted more intensely as a head coach. These are all lessons he has experienced in his inaugural season at Oakleigh Cannons.
Spending time with Arthur it becomes apparent this young coach is highly driven, goal orientated and is carefully carving out an impressive career. He hasn't got here by chance, it's been a lot of hard work and this is an ingredient that he believes is a prerequisite and he demands the same commitment of everyone in his environment. We finish off the interview with Arthur passionately giving his opinion of the state of Victorian football, "All clubs must improve the standard.
Invest in facilities and the youth structure. Have a long term vision to produce players and don't always look short term. Not one club in the VPL is achieving this! "The wage structure for players and coaches should be based on the supporters going through the gate. It's not sustainable relative to the revenue. That's why youth development is the key."
We finish our coffee and interview and Arthur finishes with one last request: "I want you to put in there how appreciative I am of Oakleigh Cannons giving me this chance. They backed me and took a chance and I work every day to repay their faith." Speaking with the Football Director of Oakleigh Aki Ioannis the feeling is mutual.
They cannot be happier with their senior coach and finals look likely for a club with a lot of ambition and hunger after several seasons out of the finals.
We wish Arthur and Oakleigh well for the rest of the 2011 season.
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