On the eve of a new NPL season, South Melbourne FC prepares to enter the fray, as a little bit of an unknown or even untested team. After flirting with relegation in 2018, the club appointed caretaker coach Con Tangalakis, as its senior coach for 2019 but not before unsuccessfully trying to lure Bentleigh Greens coach John Anastasiadis.
Together with his assistant Esteban Quintas, Tangalakis has been busy recruiting nine new players to the senior squad and preparing the team for the new season. Speaking to Neos Kosmos just after one of its final pre-season practise matches, Tangalakis said, “As you know, we lost a lot of boys (from last season’s squad). I needed to strengthen my defence. Definitely needed to strengthen my midfield ( I had no midfield), and restructure the forward line, because we lost six or seven players.
There’s a strong Greek flavour to the new recruits with seven of the nine new signings having a Greek background.
Tangalakis has looked mainly to the local NPL scene for his new recruits with the likes of Nick Krousoratis, Perry Lambropoulos, Kostas Stratomitros and Gerrie Sylaidos all coming from other Victorian NPL clubs. He’s also picked up two youngsters, midfielder Zac Bates and defender George Gouroundaras from Melbourne City youth. The exceptions to the local recruits are Dean Bereveskos from NSW, and Melbourne born striker Vasilios Konstantinidis from Greece.
Also joining these players in the first team squad will be players promoted from South’s youth team such as exciting prospect Will Orford, Manny Aguek, Amir Jashari and Andrew Mesorouni.
Complicating South’s pre-season preparation have been injuries to several of the senior players, such as Marcus Schroen, Kris Konstantinidis, Ethan Gage, Leigh Minopouolos and Jake Marshall. Tangalakis says, “They’ve all got slight injuries and haven’t been training. So unfortunately we’ve had some hiccups with the squad I was looking at starting. But we’re managing them. Hopefully get them right second or third round of the season.”
What it means is that Tangalakis could give some of his younger players the opportunity to play senior football, at the start of the season, as opposed to throughout the course of the season as originally anticipated.
Tangalakis is aiming for the right blend of youth and experience, confident that with Brad Norton, Luke Adams, Kristian Konstantinidis, Leigh Minopoulos and keeper Nikola Roganovic, that South has a good mix of leaders and youth.
He readily admits that it’s still a work in progress. “Even though we’ve had a lot of training and practise games, we’re still trying to find our feet. We’ve been scoring a lot of goals but we’ve also been conceding a lot of goals. And I think that comes down to the boys getting used to each other and the team structure.”
With just one of their opening six rounds of the season being at home, it promises to be a tough baptism for Tangalakis’s new squad and it doesn’t come any more difficult than the season opener away to Bentleigh Greens on Friday evening.
Tangalakis is realistic in his objectives this season. Whilst conceding his young squad may struggle against some of the physically stronger and more experienced opponents, he is optimistic he has a squad that can not only be competitive but develop into a strong outfit in the longer term. “Look, coming off what we had last year and a whole new restructured squad, and a very young squad, if we can make finals, it will be a very successful year.”