Olyroo Armenakas puts Greek nightmare behind him for Belgium kick-start

Olyroos winger Panos Armenakas. Source: SBS The World Game

Olyroos playmaker Panos Armenakas believes he will begin translating promise into end product with his latest European move, from Greek giants Panathinaikos to Belgium second tier club KSV Roeslare.

Once dubbed by The Guardian newspaper as one of the top 50 young talents on the planet, the Greek-Australian’s career trajectory has so far not kept pace with such stratospheric expectation.

And, at 22, the Sydneysider, who cut his teeth in the youth ranks of Watford and Udinese, knows it’s time to begin realising his undoubted potential.

A victim during his time in Athens of the off-field politics which permeate Greek football, Armenakas looks likely to be granted the minutes he craves in Belgium, after making just three appearances in a year at Panathinaikos.

With next year’s deferred Tokyo Olympics on the horizon, the prize is there to be seized.

“There were other options both elsewhere in Europe and back in Australia but this is a good opportunity to get game time at a good level,” he explained.

“I believe if I train well, and the coach (Karel Fraeye) has told me on multiple occasions I’m an important part of the squad, then I’ll get games under my belt.

“Hopefully it will be a big year - being in Europe a lot of people are watching.

“There were a few other bigger name clubs interested but I just want to play football after a difficult time over the last year or so where things were out of my control.

“A lot of players go to big clubs and don’t get to play, so that was my thinking in coming here.”

Armenakas is reluctant to divulge too much of what lay behind his frustrations in Greece, other than to say the roadblocks he faced there were “more to do with administration than football”.

“It wasn’t a great experience for me in that way,” he added. “I was training every day with great players, players you see in the Champions League, and when I did get my opportunity I did well.

“But a lot of opportunities weren’t given based on what you can do on a football pitch.

“The issues were all off the field.”

With the season due to kick off on September 26, Armenakas is relishing a new dawn at a club expected to be pushing for promotion.

“I’m just looking to push on from here now,” he said.

“I don’t want any promises or guarantees, only that if I train and I’m doing the things the coach asks of me then I’ll get my chance.

“Then it’s up to me to perform and let my feet do the talking.”

Armenakas’ situation is in a sense paralleled by that of boyhood friend Daniel Arzani, who is out to revitalise his future in the neighbouring Netherlands at FC Utrecht after his injury-marred two-year spell at Celtic.

The pair went to the same school in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, attended the same classes and “got in trouble at lunchtime” together, Armenakas wistfully recalls.

“A bit like with me, things that have happened with Daniel have been out of his control with his knee injury at Celtic,” he added.

“Barring that I know he’d have done well there, but the opportunities never really came for him.

“I think Holland will suit his style and Belgium will suit mine and we’ll be looking to meet up again in the national set-up down the track.”

Armenakas counts Socceroos legend Tim Cahill as a confidante, and received his blessing on the move to Belgium.

“We spoke about it a few times ... I bounced some ideas off him and he gave me some advice. I know if I need something I can give him a call,” he said.

Armenakas has fond memories of Watford and Udinese, where he was close to a Serie A call-up before a change of coaches intervened.

“At Watford I was very young and it was really enjoyable,” he recalled. “In Italy (at a club also owned by the Pozzo family) it was much more tactical and defensive.

“Both were great experiences. I was very close to making some first team appearances but a new coach comes in ... new philosophy and new ideas.

“I was on the bench a couple times and then the coach gets moved on and it changes everything. But I’m very thankful to both clubs.”

Source SBS The World Game