Being able to enjoy and take advantage of the experience and knowledge of former star international players can’t be anything but beneficial for an NPL club, and St George are in the enviable position of having three such distinguished ex-internationals as part of its coaching staff.
Leading the way at the helm of its senior NPL2 team is of course, former Socceroo Wally Savor. With 38 caps to his credit, 23 at full international level, Wally was a part of the rising Australian team during the mid to late 1980s, then under the leadership of Frank Arok, who combined the national coaching duties with that of our very own Saints.
Wally took part in the 1988 Bicentennial Gold Cup, playing in the famous 4-1 victory over then World Cup holders Argentina, a match many remember for ‘that’ Charlie Yankos goal, and the 1989 World Cup campaign, a journey which ended in front of a jam-packed SFS and a 1-1 draw with Israel. Only injury prevented Wally from heading to Seoul for the 1988 Olympic Games.
Just shading Wally by one World Cup term is our Under 14s coach, Jim Patikas. A young star at a very early age, Jim made his national league debut with Sydney City at just 15 years 228 days. A national call up came early, in 1981, before Jim became more established in the national team during the 1985 World Cup campaign, including playing in both final play off matches against Scotland.
Jim was also one of the first Australian players of the 1980s to head overseas, headlining at AEK Athens. Jim earned 27 caps in total, 10 at full level.
Jim’s star was on the rise at an early age, as evidenced by the esteemed Andrew Dettre, writing in the October 1982 edition of World Soccer magazine.
Leading our goalkeeping coaching ranks is former Greek international, and coincidentally a former team mate of Patikas’, Spiros Oikonomopoulos. Capped 12 times by Greece in the 1980s, and a championship winner at AEK, Spiros coached extensively in Greece before arriving in Australia four years ago.
The keeper coach hopes to build a Goalkeeper Academy in the near future, something which, with Oikonomopoulos’ background, which also includes UEFA Champions League and Europa League appearances, would surely be an asset to the local goalkeeping ranks.
There is no doubt that St George are certainly privileged to have the three coaches at the club, and with Wally having secured an NPL Championship last season with the Saints, and with the youth and goalkeeper coaching in good hands, the future for St George is looking bright indeed.
By Peter Rowney