It’s taken some adjusting to the Australian style, but Western United's Panagiotis Kone says that he’s enjoying his time at the A-League expansion club.
Kone was the first-ever signing made by United after they received a license to join the A-League, making his first move outside of Europe after a playing career featuring stints with AEK Athens, Brescia, Bologna and Udinese.
He has thus far started all ten games in which he’s been a member of United’s matchday squad – forced off early in two of them with injuries and missing subsequent weeks.
“The league is different,” he said. “It’s different and the first games, I noticed this. I can say there are a lot of teams and a lot of good players here."
Playing without the playmaker after he suffered a knock the week prior against Western Sydney, United went down 3-1 to Wellington Phoenix in Ballarat in round 12; allowing them to slip to fourth on the table following Perth Glory’s New Year’s Eve win over Central Coast.
With his side set to play at AAMI Park for the first time on Friday night when they resume hostilities in the M80 Derby with Melbourne City, Kone’s availability is set to be a late decision by Head Coach Mark Rudan and the United training staff.
“I had a small injury in my hamstring, and we decided to protect it,” explained Kone. “This week, I made training so I feel good, but we decide tomorrow with the boss – what is better for the team, what is better for me – and it will be a decision of the last minute.
“I made some training, but it’s different – training from games. It’s always different because in the training you’re protecting yourself. In the game, you’re not protecting yourself.
“That’s why we decided with the boss to see tomorrow and to do the best for the team first of all and after for me. I will come to the stadium, I will speak to the boss and he will think about it, I will think about it and we will make the best decision for the team.
A 28-time Greek international, Kone has seen himself deployed in a number of midfield roles under United Head Coach Mark Rudan; beginning the season in a more deep-lying role but in more recent times deployed higher up the park.
The shift forward is a move that he’s enjoying, the 32-year-old telling journalists on Thursday the spaces he’s able to operate in when serving as a more attacking option giving him more opportunities to assert himself on the contest.
This is, in part, thanks to the highly transitional nature of the game United’s number eight has observed in his time Down Under.
“I’ve noticed some things,” said Kone. “They are not so tactical [in the A-League] like in Europe. I notice that if you have fast, attacking players you can make the difference. This doesn’t happen in Europe.
“They don’t control the game too much, in Europe you control more of the game. Here it is a very transitional game.
“But it’s good, I like it to tell you the truth.
“But, I can see that here in Australia there are some very good teams and very good players. They try very hard and I’m happy to be here and to be part of this league.
“[I prefer] forward. Yes, because I think forward I have more skills to help the team and to create chances for goal.
“Also, I’m a player that do[es] the ball phases, defensively and offensively. And in the middle of the park, because it’s a game of too much transition, I felt in many games that I didn’t have so much of the ball – control of the ball.
“It was only running, running, running. For sure I prefer to play more at the front because the ball is coming to me, I have more contact with the ball, I can create opportunities for the team, I can combine with my teammates and I feel more comfortable when I am playing more forward.”