A new signing who will never take the field could prove to be Sydney United 58’s best offseason acquisition.
Miro Vlastelica returns as United 58 head coach for his first preseason in charge and his recruitment of former Socceroos high performance coach Craig Duncan to the club’s coaching staff could turn out to be a masterstroke.
Duncan, who was a key cog in Ange Postecoglou’s Socceroos coaching setup and recently was involved with Iran’s squad for the 2019 Asian Cup, has set out to make United 58 the fittest, strongest and, most importantly, healthiest club in the NSW NPL competition.
“We’re lucky to have Craig on board and I think having a fitness expert like him involved with the squad is something other teams will definitely look to adopt themselves,” Vlastelica said.
“Preventing injuries is for the club the most important thing. We want our boys on the pitch and not in the stands as it is an expensive exercise for the club and a difficult time for the player.
“I look at the way we finished up last season and we had five of our starters sitting in the grand stand for our semi-final.
“It is stuff like that which we are hoping to change by having Craig come in and hopefully that gives us a little bit of an advantage over our opposition.”
United 58 midfield veteran Nick Stavroulakis will lead the side in 2019 but he will be without long time teammate and close friend Panny Nikas for this campaign.
Nikas, a former NPL NSW Men’s Player of the Year winner, made a blockbuster move to Rockdale at the end of last season and the loss of his output in attack has only been compounded by the departure of experienced striker Chris Payne to APIA.
However, it hasn’t just been outgoing’s from Edensor Park with the Reds signing former Central Coast Mariners Australian Youth international defender Liam Rose, ex-Wollongong Wolves striker Peter Simonoski, Talented winger Judah Cluer and former star Uruguayan youth international Sebastian Gallegos.
Gallegos in particular will be a player to look out for especially. The 27-year-old rose to fame at the 2009 U17 FIFA World Cup when he shared the Golden Boot award with three other players on five goals.
Vlastelica admitted the loss of both Payne and Nikas would be felt but said it provided an opportunity for a number of players, both new and established, to make their mark.
“It’s never good to lose players like Panny (Nikas) and Chris (Payne) but that is just the nature of football,” he said.
“I’m really happy with the business we have done this offseason and bringing in players with a high pedigree.
“I have been really happy with what I have seen so far and it is only very early into the offseason.”
After a relative lean spell by their lofty standards, Sydney United 58 will be determined to make this season the year they return the NPL NSW Premiership trophy back to halls of the BOKA stand.
Key player movements
Departures: Panny Nikas (Rockdale City Suns), Chris Payne (APIA Leichhardt Tigers)
Incoming: Sebastian Gallegos (Hawkesbury City NPL3), Liam Rose (Central Coast Mariners), Peter Simonovski (Wollongong Wolves), Judah Cleur (Marconi Stallions)
-By Nick Houghton