For the 3,765 spectators who watched the NPL grand final between Bentleigh Greens and Heidelberg United last Sunday week, a moment that will remain long in the memory is the match-winning goal scored in the second half of extra time of an epic contest.
It was a goal worthy of a championship decider created almost out of nothing when Greens’ sub Ross (Lambros) Honos picked up Tyson Holmes’ pass just over the halfway line. Honos’s fresh legs carried him past a couple of tired Bergers’ tackles before firing a left foot screamer home from the edge of the box.
The goal gave the Greens their second NPL title in three years, but it was 34-year-old Honos’s first ever championship win in a career spanning 15 years, 11 of them as a professional footballer in Greece, including one memorable season in the Greek top flight with Egaleo, when he played against Olympiacos stars such as Yaya Toure and Rivaldo.
Speaking to Neos Kosmos after the grand final win, Honos said of the memorable victory, “I’d never won a championship before so it was important. At the end of the day, I’ll look back and remember I’ve won a title towards the end of my career as well. So it’s good.”
Key motivating factors for Honos joining the Greens from Port Melbourne in mid-2016 were the lure of trophy success and the possession-based football style of the Greens developed under coach John Anastasiadis.
“They play obviously the best soccer in the league. I hadn’t played under Johnny A before, but knowing him a bit personally and seeing how his team plays, that’s what attracted me.”
Although Honos wasn’t named in the starting line-up for the grand final, Anastasiadis turned to his attacking midfielder when he looked to his bench for someone to make an impact and break the 1-1 deadlock. According to Honos, JA’s instruction to him before sending him on in place of Andy Brennan was, ‘Do what you know how to do and you’ll win the match for us, trust me!’
Honos repaid the coach’s faith in his ability and the rest is history. Honos is full of praise for the Bentleigh coach whom he rates as the best coach he’s had in Australia. ” I think he could coach an A-League club as well. No doubt about it. Because I’ve had coaches in my career that have coached Champions League clubs and I don’t think he’s far off some of those good coaches.”
Honos is philosophical when he looks back over his career as a footballer in Greece. He admits that he probably didn’t achieve as much as he wanted but has no abiding regrets.
He says, “Soccer is circumstances and luck and there’s many factors that go into making it as a footballer. There are things where I say I could’ve tried harder, could’ve trained harder. But when you’re young you see things differently and there are so many temptations outside of football, where instead of training you want to go out with your mates. But I’m grateful for what I achieved. I was so many years in Greece including a stint in the Super league with Egaleo when they finished fifth. I think from soccer, what stays is the people you meet. You meet people that become life time friends. I’ve got a lot of friends over there.”
And what of his footballing future as a player and beyond? Honos says that he’s not sure how long he’ll play for or even if he’ll stay at Bentleigh. Not that he’s unhappy at the club: “The conditions at Bentleigh are ideal for anyone who wants to go ahead – even for young players who want to play and maybe get a chance to go to the A-League. It’s probably the best club to be at in the NPL. The president does a good job. With pay, everything’s good. And I think mainly it has to do with Johnny A. Just how he is with the players. Even though it’s not a professional league, Bentleigh is like a professional environment. It is good being here, but at my age I’m not sure what I’m going to do,” he says.
He wants to keep enjoying his football as he did with Bentleigh this season. “That’s what I want to do next season – enjoy it! I’d actually want to win the title next season wherever I am. To say that I won it two years in a row, then maybe hang up the boots.”
And what about after that? Could coaching be on the cards? It’s something he wouldn’t have contemplated earlier in his playing days but as he nears the end, it might be something he’s willing to try.
“I’m not sure how I’d go. Tactically and with the game, I’d do very well. But I don’t have much patience as a person. So I don’t know how I’d deal with managing 30 players. It’s not easy. But we’ll see.”