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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 6 February 2016
SPORT 26 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2016 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Kingston City revamps squad for 2016 NPL2 campaign GEORGE STOGIANNOU Kingston City coach Nick Tolios has recruited heavily from near and far, youth and experience, in a bid to assemble a squad which can challenge for promotion from NPL 2 this year. At the end of last season, Tolios and assistant Billy Theodoropoulos were faced with the task of finding new squad members following an exodus of nine players from the Grange, seven of whom were in the starting 11. “The majority of those we lost were most of our experienced players (including main marksman Sean McIlroy),” Tolios told Neos Kosmos. “So Billy and I sat down at the end of last year and identified what we needed. And we went down the path of getting experienced young players who have played at the NPL level. "The guys we've brought in are 21 to 22-year-olds except for my two visa spots - 26year-old keeper, Frenchman Julien Chaumet and 31-yearold Czech midfielder Zdenek Koukal. Apart from those two and George Stavridis, Ryan Love and Nick Stamatiou, everyone else is 23 to 24 - down to 17 years old." Last season the club made a promising start to its campaign but it ended in a dis- Kingston’s new French signing, keeper Julien Chaumet. appointing fade-out when it lost seven of its last 10 games, to finish sixth, due mainly to injuries and players going overseas. Kingston scored plenty of goals along the way but by the coach's admission, "also conceded a lot of goals". "Our biggest aim has been to strengthen our defence as well as replacing Sean McIlroy," he said. As well as signing keeper Chaumet from French Division 4 side AS Moulins, King- ston has signed central defenders Ryan Love from NPL champion Bentleigh Greens and Springvale White Eagles skipper, Simo Milanovic. Tolios believes that Love, who has won NPL championships in both Brisbane and Melbourne, "brings a winning mentality to the squad". He also believes the Czech midfielder Koukal will bring invaluable experience. "Having someone like Koukal, who's played overseas (representing the Czech Re- public at youth level), played in Europe - you can't buy the kind of experience that he brings. He's fantastic with the younger guys. He shows by the way he goes about his football, he's hard at the ball, work rate second to none. And that flows on to the guys. Seeing someone who's had success in Europe and has what it takes to play at that level - it's had an impact on all the squad to be honest. His work rate is phenomenal." Kingston City coach Nick Tolios marches into the new season. PHOTO:WWW.CORNERFLAG.COM Tolios also reckons that Libyan-born midfielder Muad Zwed will bring an X-factor to the squad. "He's electric, he's skilful. At the moment, he's catching up with his fitness and we're aiming to get him ready by round 1." Tolios is cautiously optimistic about his new squad's chances of success this year. According to the coach, it has greater depth, less of a gap between the starting 11 and the rest of the squad, and more pace and versatility, especially through the midfield. "I'm excited because the squad is younger than last year and we can mould it into the way we want to be playing and they are just willing to learn." He believes the main contenders for promotion will be Dandenong Thunder, Dandenong City, and Box Hill United. The latter visits Kingston in Rd 1 of the new season on Monday evening, 22 February at the Grange. Northcote City calls on Department of Youth for new NPL campaign GEORGE STOGIANNOU Northcote City's new coach Alex Gymnopoulos is a man who wears his heart on his sleeve, and that heart is full of pride for the club he's served loyally through coaching its youth teams for the last 10 years. It shows when he speaks about Northcote's ability to develop young players. But also, a different kind of pride shows through in his responses to pre-season predictions about how Northcote will fare this season. “Although everyone out there says to us ‘you're a young team, you're favourites to get relegated’, as a true believer for the kids, I like to think they're wrong." Gymnopoulos is challeng- ing his young squad to defy the pundits. "You know I say to the boys, ‘I get really upset when people say that this team's going to get relegated’. I said to the players: ‘As a player you've got to have that pride. Who the hell are they to say I'm going to get relegated. You've got to have that belief.' And I'm trying more with my coaching staff to get that into their heads." Charged with rebuilding a senior squad following the departure of coach Goran Lozanovski and about eight of the senior squad, (including its strikers) at the end of last season, Gymnopoulos has signed about half a dozen new players and promoted four of the youth squad into the seniors list. One of his major concerns has been to bolster a defence which conceded plenty of goals last season. To that end, he's brought in new signings, Michalis Karvouniaris (from Panachaiki) and Anthony Rizk (Melbourne City youth) who'll join Jacob Eliopoulos to strengthen the defence. He's also signed Englishborn attacking midfielder Michael Cunningham from second division USA team, Rochester Rhinos. Because of the departure of the club's senior strikers in the off-season, young rookie forwards Todd Dekker and Aminta Makalovski are expected to lead the line. "Last year's team was much more experienced,” says Gymnopoulos. “I'd like to say this team is for the fu- ture, younger kids, hopefully more enthusiasm." He's well aware of the enormity of the challenge ahead. "It's going to be a long, long year. I'd like to think we're giving those kids the opportunity. They have to stand up." He also believes this season will be the strongest NPL ever. "From what I see, a lot of teams have recruited very well. A lot of established players are moving around now in the NPL and a lot of boys are coming from interstate who have played A-League. Players who have come to the NPL to your South Melbournes, your Heidelbergs, your Oakleighs, Bentleighs and Green Gullys, which I think will be the teams that kick on and will shoot away from the rest of the group. “I'm fortunate and happy to say that at least with Northcote, the vast majority of our squad has also played for Northcote somewhere along the line in the past, through our youth system. So although we're doing the right thing, I believe other teams aren't in that sense. That's their issue. I like to believe, and that's what we say to the kids, 'we always give you an opportunity at Northcote, through our youth system, to come and hopefully one day, play senior football'." Northcote opens its season away to another young team, the newly-promoted Melbourne Victory Youth team, on Saturday 20 February at Epping stadium. Northcote City senior coach Alex Gymnopoulos prepares for his first senior coaching role in the NPL. PHOTO: KOSTAS DEVES.
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