Valkanis forging a successful career as a coach
Peter Kokotis looks at the successful career of Michael Valkanis
Neos Kosmos congratulates Michael Valkanis who has recently been appointed to the senior coaching staff of Adelaide United as an assistant alongside Luciano Trani to Dutch head coach Rini Coonel.
Michael will also maintain his position as head youth coach at Adelaide United. Many will remember Michael for his deeds on the park as a player in Australia in both the old NSL for South Melbourne and Adelaide City and in the A League recently captaining Adelaide United. He also had a distinguished career in Greece highlighted with his time at Larissa where he played over 100 games for the club and also captained the team. Michael is also the proud owner of an international cap for the Socceroos in an Asian Cup qualifier versus Kuwait at Aussie Stadium on the 16 August 2006.
People within the game will talk about his fierce determination to win, his outstanding leadership abilities and his excellent people skills. The past year he has enjoyed his role as the head of the Adelaide United youth academy and his outstanding work there resulted in the appointment to the senior coaching staff at Adelaide United. He is next month taking the youth team to a trip in China for a tournament against International teams such as Porto . I caught up with Michael to discuss his coaching career, his views on football today and life in general. "I knew I was going to be a coach around the time I was playing in Greece when I was 26 or 27 years of age.
"Back then I would scribble down notes on training sessions and tactical formations from coaches I played under in Greece. "There was always an interest there when I stopped playing, that was always what I wanted to do. "My last year of football at Adelaide United was a difficult one. I came back from a knee reconstruction post 30-years-old. At that age, many people thought I would not come back.
The 12 months rehabilitation was a huge learning experience about life and football and things happen for a reason and two things happened to me in that time. Firstly, I had the time to go and start my coaching license and secondly, I learnt one valuable quality which all great leaders should have and that is compassion.
"To understand people and feel for people and in the past I never had that quality. In my career I never had injuries, I never missed games or trainings and I felt indestructible. I used to see injured players not training and inwardly I used to think they were soft. I quickly learnt during my time of rehabilitation that you need to have compassion for injured players." Michael feels very fortunate to finish his career with an Asian Champions League Grand Final, the only Australian team to achieve this, and a wonderful testimonial game send-off only offered to players who have special careers. He recalls it was an exciting time but also a sad time saying good bye to a massive chapter of his life as a player for 18 years. He was not going to be a retired champion lost to our game.
It has become quite evident he had the ingredients to become a head coach of an A League club one day. "I wasn't God's gift to football, I had to work very hard to have a successful career but reading the game, following the tactics and trends of the game always interested me and came naturally to me. I have slipped into my coaching career easily and have enjoyed working my way up again from the bottom as I did as a player." Michael has firm views on football and does believe we may be are too focused on sports science, being influenced from other codes such as AFL.
"Fitness should come from the consequence of playing football. Our game is a bit different to those codes. Our game needs technical and tactical superiority. "The Australian game needs its players to be kicking the football as often as possible. Sports science is taking too much of our training time. We need to be improving in other areas if we want to keep up with the rest of the world. "I want to go away from the physical 'accidental' style of football and to start becoming smarter footballers."
Surprisingly, Michael believes in attacking football which is a paradox to his playing career where he ruled as a 'stopper'. I could not have a chat to Michael without bringing up the famous on-field battles with Mark Viduka. People always talk about the three goals Mark Viduka scored against South Melbourne knocking the 'Blues' out of the finals and makes the point only two were scored against him as he went off injured during the game but many people forget that he had kept Viduka scoreless six times before. "I actually thank Mark Viduka because I was 18 at the time and Wade was injured for a mid-week game and I put my hand up to take on the job. The coaches smiled when I gave them the idea. "Are you sure you want this job?" They asked. I was determined and believed I could stop the best goal scorer in the country and they backed me that day and I kept him scoreless. I got picked for the Olympic team after that game as Eddie Thompson was there watching and I kept him scoreless a further five times after that but people forget this, they only remember that final game when he scored a hatrick. The opportunity though to play on the greatest player ever to come out of Melbourne and maybe Australia was great for me as it established my career."
Michael has also had famous scalps in Greece such as Panathinaikos legend Kristoff Warzycha and Olympiakos star Geovanni. I could not finish the interview without asking - Victorian or South Australian? Michael laughed and took a second before answering, "South Australian". After nine years there and four boys born in the state he has been converted. It was a great pleasure to interview Michael, his intelligent and insightful opinions on the game are priceless and Neos Kosmos wishes him all the best for the forthcoming A League season.
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