Popovic will be given time to thrive in ruthless Greece, claims Valkanis

L-R: Bill Papas (President Xanthi FC), Tony Popovic and Damon Hanlin (Board Member Xanthi FC) Source: Xanthi FC

Tony Popovic's rescue project at Xanthi FC is on hold amid a new coronavirus upsurge in Greece.

But the country’s assistant national team chief, fellow Australian Michael Valkanis, believes he’s equipped to thrive in a league which devours coaches with ravenous regularity.

In his six years in Greece as a player, the former Melbourne City interim and PEC Zwolle assistant was flabbergasted to see numerous coaches fail to even last the pre-season, shown the door by ruthless owners after a handful of indifferent results in friendlies.

That, according to Valkanis, isn’t the scenario facing Popovic at the newly-relegated Super League 2 club owned by Sydney entrepreneur Bill Papas.

The co-owner of NPL side Sydney Olympic, Papas has already pledged to adopt a collaborative rather than cut-throat approach.

“Having an Australian owner to show a bit of patience is crucial, as we all know what Greece is like in terms of inpatient owners,” Valkanis said.

“I’ve seen examples where you have coaches who are sacked before the season even starts, it wasn’t uncommon there in my time as a player (with Iraklis, Larissa and Agios Nikolaos).

“The most important thing is you have two people at the top of the tree, in the owner and the coach, who are on the same page and have a clear plan and vision.

“There is a business plan off the pitch and there is a philosophy on it, and I’m sure they will devote the required time to implement it.

“To me, it looks like a great project.

“Often in Greece owners are driven purely by week-to-week results and want overnight success

“They live day-by-day and don’t really think about a big plan or romanticise about playing attractive football.

“That’s just the way it is, especially in Super League 2.

“I’m looking forward to Popa doing really well and taking them straight back to the first division.

The club’s Aussie ensemble also includes Socceroos Matt Jurman and Josh Brillante, goalkeeper Paul Izzo and assistant coaches Zeljko Kalac and Arthur Diles.

The contingent will bring stability and cohesion, according to Valkanis.

“The fact he’s brought in so many Australians can only help in giving him the platform to implement what he wants to do,” Valkanis added.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for him to grow even further as a coach and continue developing in what is a really volatile competition.

“Xanthi have a good history and great facilities and the sooner the league starts up again (from its current shutdown) the sooner Popa will begin to get things going.

“If, as I think they can, the team wins promotion, it’s also an excellent opportunity for those players he’s brought in to play at a really good level, which is what the Super League clearly is.”