For now, Western United Assistant Coach John Anastasiadis is focused on the task of ensuring that his club keeps their finals destiny in their own hands. His future though? That's to be taken "one step at a time".
Outside of second-placed Melbourne City, who will resume their 2019/20 season against Sydney FC tonight, no other side in the competition has more games to play in the coming weeks than Western United, with a five game fixture list still to complete before the finals.
Coming off a comfortable 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory, sitting seventh on the table heading into their clash with Newcastle Jets on Sunday evening and possessing at least two games in hand over their finals rivals, the 15-points still available to Head Coach Mark Rudan’s side would appear to place them in good stead to play finish in the top-six in their first-ever A-League season.
But Anastasiadis acknowledges that pressure remains on his club to ensure that its destiny remains within its own hands.
“We knew that from the start,” Anastasiadis said on Saturday.
“Our destiny is in our hands – every game is a cup final. We had a good win against Victory but the game against Newcastle is going to be a very difficult game.
"They’re a very good team. We’ve seen them play some very good football, especially since Carl Robinson’s come in. We know what we’re up against.
“They circulate the ball exceptionally well, they love to play out and build up well, they’ve got some key people in the midfield – they’re a very good team. Playing in Newcastle is going to give them that extra incentive also.”
Anastasiadis also confirmed that Socceroo right-back Josh Risdon was fit to take the field against the Jets despite having been a half time substitute against Victory thanks to a minor concussion,
Following a long and successful playing career in both Greece and Australia – he remains the only Australian to score a competitive goal at the Maracana – Anastasiadis arrived at Western as an assistant after a near-decade-long coaching stint turning south-east Melbourne side Bentleigh Greens into an NPL Victoria powerhouse.
Seemingly set to culminate in a hub in Sydney, the subsequent campaign hasn’t exactly gone the way he – or anyone – thought it would go but the 51-year-old says that he’s been enjoying the experiences and challenges that have come his way.
“It’s been great,” he said. “From the start of the season, it was tough, being in this role. But I’ve come to like it quite a bit.
“It’s interesting, I’ve got better at computer skills, put it that way, and all that sort of stuff. I’m enjoying it immensely and we hope to be successful this year to really cap that off as a reward for all our hard work.
“There’s no doubt our job [in the hub] is to take a lot of load off [Rudan] on things looking after players on the field, seeing how they are. Talking to them about family, just to let them know that we’re here for them.
“While the head coach has got a job to do, we as assistants, myself, Ante Moric, Frank Juric, Vinny [Ierardo] our analyst, [newly appointed football director] Ante Kovacevicis coming too. We’re all here to help the players get by and understand and for them to know that we’re here for them and any issues that they have we’re here to solve them."
Thanks to his long-standing success at an NPL level, Anastasiadis has frequently been raised as an A-League coach-in-waiting by Australian footballing observers.
Though Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar have recently filled their vacant roles and Carl Veart appears the favourite to land the Adelaide United job, the Melbourne Victory role seemingly remains an open race.
Recent reports from Greece have indicated negotiations with Ethniki legend Traianos Dellas have broken down, while reports from Australia and New Zealand have stated that Wellington Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay turned down the four-time A-League champions.
Asked if he saw himself as a future A-League Head Coach at some point, Anastasiadis played a straight bat.
“At the end of the day anyone who is in the job that’s not at the top strives to do that at some stage in their careers,” he said.
“But I’ll take it one step at a time, my step was NPL Head Coach, now A-League assistant coach and then if that happens along the way then obviously we’ll look at it.
“But I’m here in this role, I’m enjoying it; Mark’s a great role model, as are all the people at Western United.
“I’ll be patient and just keeping working hard and at some stage down the track hopefully if something comes up we’ll have a look at it.”