In a position that generally requires a maturity and poise beyond his years, 20-year-old centre-back Jonathan Aspropotamitis has exhibited both in his rise through the ranks to first team football.
With six Hyundai A-League starts under his belt this season, the young Wanderers defender has relished his chance in the first team and the cohesion that’s beginning to form with his fellow defenders.
“It’s great to have played a run of games at the moment and to have gotten that continuity with Borda, Jack and Scott. It’s good for consistency within the back four but also the team in general,” he said.
“The last few weeks have been really good, and we’ve definitely been clicking more together.”
The transition from youth to first team football has been quick for the young defender but any thoughts of complacency in light of his most recent senior breakthrough are firmly quashed.
“From my perspective I know that I’m still very early on in my career and I’ve got to a lot more to learn and improve upon,” he said.
“With Nikolai leaving I’ve been trying to step up my communication and trying to stay alert for the full 90 minutes. There can be patches in my game where I switch off and make mistakes but it’s part of the development process and something I’ve been working on.”
As the youngest regularly starting centre back in the Hyundai A-League, the man affectionately known as Aspro credits his rise to the time and experience he gained in the club’s youth ranks.
“Under the guidance of Trevor Morgan and Ian Crook in the youth team we had a really good foundation because all they wanted was for us was to try and progress as much as we could and ultimately push for the senior team.”
“Then to have been given my chance by Popa and the other coaching staff is something I’ll never forget.”
Aside from the big boss himself, Aspro is full of praise for assistant coach Hayden Foxe and the valuable insight he’s gained from the two former Socceroos defenders.
“Everything that Hayden and Popa say I try and take on board,” he said.
“I do it to the best of my ability because I know the opportunity to get advice from guys like that on a daily basis is not something everyone can experience, so I’m grateful for that.”
Despite a frustrating string of home draws, the defender remains positive that a home win and clean sheet are just around the corner for the team.
“We’ve played some great football recently and our defensive structure is getting really good. I think against City we only conceded one shot on goal and they scored, and the goal against Brisbane was a penalty.”
“So we’re getting there but it’s just down to those minute details we need to keep fine tuning and getting that clean sheet we desire.”
And it’s the impressive football the team showcased in their 4-1 win over the Central Coast Mariners last weekend that Aspro hopes will be on display at ANZ Stadium against Melbourne Victory.
The Wanderers will be keen to make amends for the 3-0 defeat they suffered in Round 6, with Aspro confident the defence can stymie the Victory’s potent attacking threats including talisman Besart Berisha.
“Besart’s a bit of a handful for most defenders in the league but we’re pretty confident as a defensive unit that we can deal with him,” he said.
“But it’s not only him, it’s the other attackers in Max Beister, Marco Rojas and James Troisi, but whoever they put up front against us we can deal with.”