National Premier League Victoria winning coach John Anastasiadis and his vice-captain Luke Pilkington have added their voices to the growing clamour for the FFA to establish a national second division sooner rather than later.
Anastasiadis guided Bentleigh Greens to their second National Premier League Victoria championship in three years when they defeated minor premiers Heidelberg 2-1 after extra time in Sunday night’s grand final at Lakeside and immediately said the club needed new targets to keep the players focussed and striving to improve.
“We are holding out for a second division. We have done everything possible in this NPL and now we are hoping the powers that be will make some decision in the upcoming months,” said Anastasiadis, a coach who has little left to prove in this grade of the game.
“You can only give the guys so many motives. We have won the grand final, won the minor premiership and had a run in the FFA Cup,” he said, pointing to Bentleigh’s achievements in recent years, a highlight of which was a semi final appearance against Perth Glory in the first FFA Cup competition of 2014.
“We want to get more professional to give these guys a reason to come to training.
“We don’t think small, we think big. We are a suburban club. We don’t have the history of a South Melbourne or a Heidelberg, but we want to establish ourselves, our own club and a professional system.”
Pilkington is these days mixing a warehouse job with studying for a Masters Degree in Business (Sports Management) at Deakin University. He formerly worked as a stockbroker – but he would love to have a second chance to play football as a professional, even at his relatively advanced age of 27.
The Canberra-born midfielder/defender had a taste of it for a two-year period in 2009-2011 when he was on the roster at Melbourne Victory, having been given an opportunity by Ernie Merrick after winning a Football Superstar competition on Foxtel.
“I was young back then with Victory. If you do get the limelight of a second division they [players] will be knocking on doors. It’s a question of getting the funding. We are very close, it’s just a question of biting the bullet and doing it. The second tier is very close, I think.”
Sceptics will point to Bentleigh’s recent 4-0 FFA Cup loss to Western Sydney Wanderers and say the gulf is too great, but Pilkington argues that.
“I don’t think the gap was that big against the Wanderers. It’s the second moments [in games] that determine those results. We have all come from eight hours work that day …. it’s the lapses in concentration or the final 10 minutes when you are 2-0 down,” he said, explaining how the score blew out as tiredness crept in.
In a full-time professional environment that tiredness and those mistakes would be less likely to occur, he says.
George Katsakis, boss of losing team Heidelberg, now has to pick his players up and prepare them for their upcoming FFA Cup quarter-final against A-League side Adelaide United on Wednesday night.
The team were badly shaken on grand final day by the death that morning of board member Peter Loukakos and it did throw a huge dampner over the whole grand final experience, Katsakis said.