Socceroo prodigal son Chris Ikonomidis is on the rise in the A-League and on his way to the Asian Cup – but he credits Tony Popovic for elevating his performances.
A known disciplinarian, Popovic has brought a new level of professionalism to Perth Glory, propelling them to the top of the ladder in his debut season with the club.
According to Ikonomidis, Popovic’s tactical analysis and man management skills have seen his game soar to new heights.
"100% Popovic has raised my game," said Ikonomidis. "He’s a coach who made me feel valued from the start and told me that he was always keen to get me to Perth.
"Having the coach’s confidence does wonders for any footballer and he has obviously done his research into the type of player I am and how he can get the most out of me.
"I’ve played under plenty of coaches in Europe – some who are strict and others who are quiet, but I’ve never enjoyed playing under a coach as much as I have under Popovic. I like to think that’s showing in my performances.
"I feel like I’ve reached a new level personally at Perth."
One of Australia’s hottest young footballing prospects, Ikonomidis has netted five goals in eight games for Perth Glory this season, three of which proved the decisive goal in matches.
The 23-year-old has been rewarded for his stellar performances with selection in the Socceroos' Asian Cup squad – further proving the value of performing in the A-League for fringe Socceroos.
Equally capable in a wing role as he is up front, Ikonomidis brings a new dimension of attacking versatility to Graham Arnold’s squad that contains just a single natural striker in Jamie Maclaren.
"The striker role feels very natural to me," Ikonomidis added. "We’ve done plenty of tactical and video sessions at Perth and it’s a position that I’m familiar with.
"Whether I’m playing on the wing or as a striker I’m equally comfortable. My versatility is something I’m growing to appreciate about my game - it just helps me stay on the pitch for as long as possible."