Newly re-signed Everton defender Con Ouzounidis has revealed how boyhood idol Tim Cahill is helping shape his future and boosting his claim for Olyroos selection at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Having inked a one-year contract extension for Carlo Ancelotti’s team last week, Ouzounidis, 20, acknowledged the “support and encouragement” he’s been receiving from the Toffees legend and all-time Socceroos top scorer, who has been working within the Goodison Park youth system and already holds a UEFA A licence as he transitions towards a full-time coaching role.
The pair grew up in adjoining suburbs in Sydney’s inner-west, and Ouzounidis followed every step of Cahill’s storied career before making his own entrance at Everton aged just 11.
Cahill departed for New York Red Bulls just months later leaving a legacy of 56 goals from 226 appearances and an adoring legion of fans
Since his recent return as a fledgling coach, the highly-rated centre-back has been bending Cahill’s ear for advice and pointers at every opportunity.
Ouzounidis, who has three Young Socceroos caps, explained: “I speak to Tim a lot - he’s always around the academy and I’ve gone to him for advice a lot because of the legend he is.
“He’s always offering support and encouragement... I think coming from the same area helps.
“I’m constantly picking his brain to improve my own game. He was my hero growing up. I watched him play in the Premier League.
“And all of a sudden I’m speaking to him most days (when he’s around the academy).”
Ouzounidis missed the opening four months of the season for Everton’s U-23s, with the campaign ultimately abandoned due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Whilst eligible for Greece, through his parents, and also England, he only has eyes for Australia.
“I’ve been involved with a few Australian camps now and there was some contact before the Olympic qualifiers but I wasn’t fit at that point,” he added.
“I’d love to get a call up in the future - it’s everyone’s dream growing up to go to the Olympics and represent your country.”
Currently, under the wing of David Unsworth, the legendary Toffees defender turned U-23s coach, Ouzounidis’
family relocated to Merseyside to allow him to follow his dream.
“They made huge sacrifices and I’m so grateful for that,” he said.
“I had a few trials here and there but Everton was the best place for me.
“The way they treated me ... the facilities they had available. It was a no-brainer when they offered a contract.
“I’ve worked my way through the ranks and hopefully next season I’ll be involved with the first team.”
Calm and assured in possession, Ouzounidis has been schooled to play out from the back.
“That’s what you’re taught at a young age at the Everton academy and that’s something I take pride in,” he added.
“It’s in the club’s DNA and even more so now with somebody like Carlo Ancelotti coming in. A class manager like him wants everybody to be comfortable on the ball.”
Ouzounidis has yet to feature in a senior squad but has the backing of Unsworth, a veteran of over 300 games for Everton.
“He’s right behind the younger players - and that gives you the confidence to go out and express yourself,” he said.
“He puts it in your mind that there’s always a pathway for you.
“It’s unbelievable to be able to say you play for Everton Football Club. It’s a dream for an Aussie boy who followed the club because Tim Cahill played here.”