Newly promoted NPL 1 club Northcote City has wasted little time appointing experienced coach Eric Vassiliadis to the senior coaching position following the surprise departure of Zeljko Kuzman to Dandenong City.

Vassiliadis returns to coaching following a 12 month break after a seven-year tenure as Port Melbourne Sharks senior coach. Joining him as an assistant coach will be former Hume City assistant coach David Chick.

Speaking to Neos Kosmos in the week following his return to the NPL coaching ranks, Vassiliadis said, “Look, in isolation it’s very exciting. But even more so to take another, what I consider, big Greek club forward, given the year they had, excites me. I’m looking forward to making a real difference both on and off the park.”

Vassiliadis says he’s very close with the former coaches of the club, and that the surprising change of coaching has all been done “in the right spirit”. He says that for him it was an easy decision to accept the job when it was offered.

“As a former player, member of the culture, and I’ve always been fascinated by the things Northcote stands by – that was an easy decision. Secondly, I’ve got no doubt in my mind I’ve got some unfinished business as a coach, there’s a personal ambition. Thirdly, it’s an amazing time to be around Australian football with FFA Cups and the investment that this club’s making in infrastructure, junior and women’s programmes and the passion it’s got. So it was an easy one for me in the end. There’s not a lot of really good jobs out there, and I think I’ve got one.”

The one regret that Vassiliadis says he had coaching at Port Melbourne is that the team didn’t get to play finals football. Although that ambition still burns brightly within, he is also very conscious of the bigger picture in developing Northcote’s future.

“I think we definitely want to not set limits as far as football is concerned. But I reckon there’s a bigger project at hand at Northcote City. It’s okay to set ambitious targets within the next 12 months, but in the next three to five years I want us [to be] consistently challenging. It’s no longer a 12-month ‘let’s deliver on field success’ – this is about growing the whole football side on and off the park,” he said.

His break from the game has given Vassiliadis time to reflect upon his views about coaching. He says many of his principles haven’t changed. He still believes strongly in the importance of building the right infrastructure around the players.

“From physical infrastructural to the cultural stuff, surround yourself with good people. Get the best possible players and characters. And have a very clear and close relationship with players and staff. That’s my plan,” he said.

He has no doubt that his assistant David Chick ticks all the boxes, describing him as technically and tactically second to none, and someone he has known for a long time and trusts as a human being.

If there’s anything that he feels that could change with his coaching, it’s that he’s “going to be a lot more pragmatic with my coaching on the field.”

Vassiliadis is in the process of talking to all the players in Northcote’s NPL 2 championship-winning squad.

“I want to give everybody the opportunity to share in the excitement that is NPL football,” he said.

“The players deserve that. Whether they’re on the journey with us, is their prerogative. But everyone is going to get the chance to do it if they choose to take it up.”

He also acknowledges that the gap between NPL 2 and NPL 1 is significant and emphasises the need to recruit well.

“We need to bolster the squad, because it’s a big gap. You have to get the right balance between retaining players and signing new players. But it can be done, given what Kingston City did last season. That was a huge effort. It can be done!”