Thursday, 2 February 2006 6:31 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
The 2006 Vodafone Cup season kicks off with two of Victoria’s footballing heavyweights and intense rivals facing each other this coming Sunday.
Last campaign, two nil-all draws during the regular season and a 1-0 win to the Warriors during the finals saw South crash out of the championship race whilst the Phil Stubbins coached Heidelberg progressed to the grand final.
Pre-season form has seen both clubs in stark contrast. South won the Crazy John’s Cup and made the final of the Hellenic Cup whilst Heidelberg failed to compete in the Crazy John’s Cup and crashed out of the Hellenic Cup.
Recruiting wise, the Bergers have been dealt a blow with two highly prized players moving on. Talented central midfielder Bill Damianos has moved to Oakleigh whilst exciting young wing-back Isyan Erdogan has moved to the Sunshine Georgies. Furthermore, journeyman Fausto De Amicis has finally decided to call it a day whilst exciting youngster Brendan Beni has also left Olympic Park.
Departures aside, the Bergers have managed to secure the services of exciting young Adelaide striker Saranti Parissos and still maintain some high quality players in their ranks. The likes of Nick Marinos who netted 14 times last season must be kept under close scrutiny whilst the midfield silk of Nick Sabljak can potentially open up any game. Throw in the unpredictability of Yusef Yusef and the bedrock-like foundations provided by goalkeeper Lou Acevski and ex-South central defender Robert Liparoti and the core of the Heidelberg lineup is extremely sound.
In the South camp, coach John Anastasiadis has managed to keep practically all of his successful squad from 2005 that produced a 3rd place finish, whilst managing to strengthen in key areas.
Trinidad and Tobago goal-scoring machine Kevin Nelson has arrived with his pre-season form yielding 5 goals. Joining Nelson is South old boy Tansel Baser who has returned from a long stint in Turkey and will be playing the defensive midfield position. Finally, the signing of Ivory Coast defender Jonas Salley strengthens an already formidable backline which was the best of the 2005 campaign. Salley’s signing is timely as young-gun Steven O’Dor departs for the season after being granted an AIS scholarship.
South have also been boosted by the return to fitness of exciting winger Vasilios Natsioulas. Natsioulas has been plagued by glandular fever for the best part of a year and his services will be almost like South having signed a new player.
Inspirational captain Vaughn Coveny will miss, fulfilling his loan commitments with A-League club the Newcastle Jets, Coveny is expected to miss the first month of the new season whilst star left-back Rama Tavsancioglu returns from his A-League stint and should be in Sunday’s first 11.