Bentleigh Greens have finally got their man whom they initially approached to take over the senior coaching job, following the mid-season departure of long serving coach John Anastasiadis to the A-League. They have secured former Kingston City coach Nick Tolios and his assistant Bill Theodoropoulos as the club’s new senior coaches for season 2020.

Having coached at Kingston for the last seven seasons, Tolios was initially approached by the Greens to take over from Anastasiadis mid-season, but declined the offer at the time, choosing instead to honour his commitment to see through Kingston’s season to the end.

Speaking to Neos Kosmos about his appointment, Tolios said he felt some satisfaction and validation as a coach to have been offered the job. But at the same time a little bit of disappointment for the year Kingston had as well.

“Obviously that’s not been easy for me. But … when a team like Bentleigh are interested and keen, that means they’ve seen something in me that they like, and all that hard work over seven years at Kingston, has paid off,” he said.

Tolios’s appointment is unusual in the sense that it comes on the eve of Bentleigh’s biggest match of the season thus far, a semi-final meeting with Heidelberg United on Saturday.

It’s rare for a club to change coaches on such an occasion and Tolios admits it has put him in an awkward situation. The club asked him to take charge on match day at short notice following the departure of interim coach Frank McGrellis for overseas. Although he’s agreed to help, he says he declined to take charge on match day.

“Oh look, to be fair, I’m not really doing too much with Bentleigh (for this match). I’ll be there supporting and helping out at training here and there, but I won’t be coaching (on Saturday). I just don’t think it’s right, just purely because of my integrity and things like that,” he said.

“I’ll be just watching, observing more than anything, in the rooms before the game, half-time – just to get a feel for it and that – see what the boys are like. So it’s a bit of a funny one – but I’m helping out as much as I can at training to get the boys upbeat and give them my take on things. Its’ hard, because I know the players, but it’s not the same as your own team.
“It’s not every day you go into a semi-final without a coach that has been there all year. You’re in a semi-final, that usually means something’s been going right and the coach has been doing well. It’s just a tricky scenario.”

If the Greens do go a step further and progress to the following week’s grand final, would Tolios contemplate taking charge of the team at AAMI Park?

“To be honest, I haven’t thought that far ahead. Everything happened very quickly this week. Having a meeting to finalise everything, it’s been pretty surreal. If they get to the final, again, I’ll be there to support them, but I don’t think it’s the right thing to do. It’ll be another week with the players, it might be different. The players again, might give me their advice too. Just a hard situation to be in. A good one, a positive one because I get to experience what it’s like being in a final and I also get to see what the boys are like, especially when their backs are up against it, with obviously the limited squad numbers that we’ve got.”

As for his job in the long-term, Tolios says it’s going to be tough to follow in Anastasiadis’ footsteps.

“He gave me a lot of advice, even when I was at Kingston. But obviously I spoke to him before this was finalised,” he revealed. “It’s a great club, already very welcoming. Just start rebuilding once the season’s over.”

Helping Tolios will be his assistant of five years Bill Theodoropoulos.

“It’s fantastic to have Billy with me; we’ve got a great relationship. I like him because he’s not a “yes man”. He’s someone who voices his opinion, which is what I like. He challenges me because he puts me on the spot … which is why I think it’s worked for us. It’s exciting.”