Sunday, 25 February 2007 10:52 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South Melbourne enters the 2007 Premier League season with undoubtedly one of the most talented squads ever assembled at the elite state league level.
A squad bristling with Australian representation, national league experience and some of the best young talent in the country has been assembled by coach John Anastasiadis and the South Melbourne Football Department with the view of entertaining and securing a 2nd consecutive Premier League championship.
We took a closer look at the players, noting some of their footballing achievements and representative honors.
Starting in goals South can rely on dual Premier League goalkeeper of the year Dean Anastasiadis. A player who has represented the Australian senior team as well as spending countless years in the National League and winning a national Championship with the Wollongong Wolves.
South has a tremendous amount of depth in its defensive stocks, depth that would be the envy not only of the Victorian Premier League but perhaps even A-League clubs.
Colossal defender Con Blatsis has played in the English Premier League for Derby County as well having a long stint in the Turkish league. A representative of Australia at under-23 level, Blatsis when fit is still one of the best defenders in Australia.
Blatsis’s experience is matched by Tansel Baser who after many years plying his trade in Turkey was inspirational in leading South Melbourne to last year’s championship. Baser has also played for the Australian under 23 team.
Ramazan Tavsancioglu the versatile wingback who can also play in the centre of defence burst onto the local scene in 2005 with a superb debut season for South after spending a couple of seasons in Turkey. Tavsancioglu also managed to secure a short-term deal with the Melbourne Victory towards the end of the inaugural A-League season, starting in 3 games.
In Arhur Tsonis South possess a lion-heart defender who ever since moving to South Melbourne from Whittlesea in 2005 has developed his game tremendously, figuring prominently in forming the best defence in the 2005 season and recently being selected by coach Phil Stubbins to represent Victoria on the yearly Asian Tour.
South’s defensive young guns are some of the brightest defensive prospects in the country. Steven O’Dor returns from a year with the AIS that saw him break into the Australian under-20 squad as well as finish the year off playing 4 games for the New Zealand Knights in the A-League.
Dino Djulbic has already agreed to a contract for the upcoming A-League season with the Perth Glory with the ball playing centre back, who is tremendous in the air, tipped to play at least half a season for South this season.
Sammy DeVito presents a rarity in the Australian football scene, a naturally left-footed left back who after switching from the VIS and the South youth team has effortlessly adapted to Premier League football, being a consistent fixture in the South starting eleven over the past two seasons.
Jasper Valentijn is a Dutch youngster who has been signed this season to add depth to the South defence. Showing quite some promise during pre-season, Valentjin like many youngsters at South will hopefully develop his game and eventually push for a first eleven position.
Spotted playing State 2 for Clifton Hill last season, Frank Drakopoulos has been signed as defensive cover but has shown during pre-season that the he can comfortably handle the jump in plying standards. Drakopoulos is a well-built and aggressive defender who plays with his heart on his sleeve.
In the centre of the park South have 2006 club best and fairest winner and Brazilian maestro, Fernando Moraes. Moraes also finished 3rd in the overall best Premier League player of the year award, even though he missed a fair chunk of the season trialing overseas. The Brazilian has played futsal for Corinthians back in Brazil and finished 2006 with a stint with A-League club the New Zealand Knights.
Out wide Vasilios Natsioulas is an extremely talented and silky winger who featured regularly in the last 2 seasons for the Melbourne Knights in the National Soccer League. If Natsioulas can avoid injury, the South flyer can take the Premier League by storm.
Recent signing Trent Waterson is regarded as one of the brightest midfield talents in the state. Crossing over from the Sunshine Georgies, Waterson almost won a contract with A-League based club the Queensland Roar last season with his signing denied after coach Miron Bleiberg resigned. Waterson can create from out wide as well as get his name consistently on the score sheet.
Andrew Bourakis is an exciting and versatile midfield youngster who spent a couple of seasons at the Panathinaikos academy. Bourakis is renowned for his set-piece taking ability and adds depth to the South squad.
The versatile and extremely talented Yusuf Yusuf is guaranteed to excite South fans throughout the coming season. After crossing from Heidelberg, the enigmatic striker who can also play out wide is one of the most technically gifted players in the State and spent a great part of 2005 training with A-League club the Melbourne Victory.
Rounding up South’s midfield line is youngster Nick Curtis who managed to break through and secure himself a respectable amount of first team appearances last season. Curtis was largely deployed on the wing but is a natural central midfielder and gives Coach John Anastasiadis further flexibility in the centre of the park.
Up front, Nathan Caldwell has crossed from the Melbourne Knights this season and is a proven goal scorer at this level scoring 8 times for the Knights last season. Caldwell is expected to challenge for a starting eleven birth and adds depth to the South attack.
Exciting youngster Gianni De Nittis burst onto the scene in 2006 with 8 goals, 3 in the finals campaign, after being handed a first eleven role with the departure of Kevin Nelson and skipper Vaughn Coveny. A very gifted player technically, De Nittis will be out to confirm his status as one of the most exciting young forwards in the country.
Crossing over from the Bulleen Zebras is 2005 Premier League player of the season Ricky Diaco. An immense physical presence up front who is superb on the ground, Diaco was selected for the last Australian Futsal World Cup squad but declined the invitation because of commitments with his outdoor career. An inaugural member of Melbourne Victory’s first ever A-League squad, Diaco will be keen to show the whole of Australia his immense talent.
South have no doubt built a squad which at least on paper will push hard for a second successive crown. With season 2007 seeing many clubs strengthen their playing stocks, South Melbourne FC is well positioned to once again challenge for championship honors.
The South Melbourne FC football family wishes the 2007 squad the best of luck for the upcoming season.