Peter Tsekenis, Peter Papoythis and Manny Spanoudakis: Marconi’s three wise men

It’s rare to witness longevity in Australian football coaching staff.

However, in the world of Marconi head coach, Peter Tsekenis, and assistant coach, Peter Papoythis, a magic formula exists which has seen the coaching duo share 17 years together – including eight years in their current roles at Bossley Park.

Three years ago, the pair was joined by well known coaching analyst, Manny Spanoudakis, who has added another strand of expertise to the coaching regime.

With the National Second Tier imminent in 2025, the three coaches have a new challenge to restore the famous club to its former glory.

It’s no secret the club paraded some of the greatest players in Australian football history during the NSL – with the likes of Jim Rooney, Ray Richards, Ernie Campbell, Alan Maher, John Russell, Gary Byrne, Bertie Mariani, Richie Williams, Stewart Robertson, Paul Degney, Mark Jankovics, Peter Sharne, David Lowe, Rob Wheatley, Luke Casserly, Kimon Taliadoros, Ian Gray, Roberto Vieri, Rod Brown, Eddie Krncevic, Paul Carter, Tom McCulloch, Tony Henderson, Jean Paul de Marigny, Frank Farina, Peter Katholos, Steve Corica, Mark Schwarzer and Ian Hunter filling Marconi Stadium every time they appeared.

This season is a watershed in preparation for the National Second Tier and the Club is currently in fourth spot, just two points behind leaders Western Sydney Wanderers.

“There were a lot of changes this season with a refreshed squad of young players adding to the core group,” Peter Tsekenis said.

“Unlike Marconi in previous years and some other clubs, we believe it‘s important to cultivate youth development and this year will see several players emerging to make their mark on the League.

“Nevertheless, we’ve experienced the usual injuries and suspensions early in the season, but after the unfortunate 3-2 away loss to Sydney United, we bounced back with that resounding 4-0 win against St. George which was repeated with another 4-0 defeat of Hills United last Saturday night.”

Marconi players look on during the 3-2 loss to Sydney United.

“It was a total rebuild this season because we lost thirteen players in the off season and the new players have to understand what the coaching staff want,” Peter Papoythis said.

“The loss of James Bayliss in the first round for the season due to a popped shoulder was certainly something we didn’t expect.

“Fortunately, the established players Marco Jesic, Brandon Vella and Nathan Millgate are a mainstay and are supported well by Dominic Costanzo and James Temelkovski.”

The Marconi Men in a team photo.

“With the addition of the younger players this year, there has been a great energy to train and learn,” Manny Spanoudakis said.

“The five games played in fourteen days preceding the Sydney United match was a real test for the squad.”

“We were accused of parking the bus against Sydney United in the second half after dominating the first half and leading 2-0, but the heavy program certainly didn’t aid our cause,” Peter Papoythis added.

“There were no instructions to close the game down and our players simply didn’t rise to the challenge by neglecting the plan to play more into the opponents half in the second 45 minutes,” Tsekenis explained.

Marconi’s Senior Women who compete in their respective NPL NSW competition.

“Closing shop isn’t in our vocabulary and we’d had a good week of preparation,” Spanoudakis said.

“However, with new, young players who only have 30 games under their belt, game management, fitness and the extremely congested program weighed against us.

“We faced a similar situation on the Wednesday night, after the Sydney United defeat in the Australia Cup match against Southern Districts when we were down 2-0 at half time.

“In the second half we returned to our game plan and scored four goals which proved the players had learned from the Sydney United loss.”

“The late loss to Sydney United was a setback  but we didn’t set out to defend and some credit must be paid to our opponents for coming out at us throughout the second half and the winning goal was a screamer which couldn’t be prevented,” Papoythis added.

Rockdale Ilinden v Marconi in Round 2 NPL NSW Men’s.

With the stronger level of competition anticipated in the N.S.T., Tsekenis believes the brand of football will be similar to the NPL but the quality of player the League will attract will be better which will ensure a rise in playing standards.

“I’m programmed to play in the NST as the competition will provide a new challenge playing against Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and hopefully Tasmanian teams” he said.

“The NPL has its limitations and younger players will want to play in it and critically the Marconi club is totally switched on for it to provide something different for our supporters.”

“This will encourage former NSL fans to reconnect with the game as they will be seeing the best players from NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and possibly Tasmania competing at the highest level in a more professional League,” Spanoudakis added.

Sydney Olympic v Marconi in Round 4 of NPL NSW Men’s.

In anticipation of the step up to the N.S.T. , in the last two years, the Marconi club has implemented major refurbishment to the ground facilities, including a brand new state of the art scoreboard, painting of the grandstand, new world class change rooms for the home and visiting teams and two new synthetic pitches with grandstands and scoreboards.

“The field dimensions of these pitches are bigger than some other club’s facilities and it means irrespective of the weather we always train,” Tsekenis said.

“These facilities were a great investment because they were used for the home base of the Columbian Women’s World Cup squad last year,” Spanoudakis explained.

“The club is also planning replacement of the plastic seating if there is a positive response to the NST from supporters.

“Who knows, if demand is great enough for the NST, the club could make the ground an all seater boutique stadium.”

Marconi v Sydney FC in Round 7 NPL NSW Men’s.

This begs the question as to how a club like Marconi with 40,000 members isn’t in the A-League.

Peter Tsekenis believes as a coach you always aspire to the next level and geographically Marconi sits between Macarthur and Western Sydney Wanderers.

However, at this stage the club would appear committed to establishing itself in the NST before it entertains thoughts of applying for the A-League.

“It would be a perfect fit but it really depends on the aspirations of the club Board and the demands of the members,” he said.

“Yet there are players from the club who have moved on to A- League and that will continue to happen.

“Some players are content to play NPL as they earn more money playing part time football and working in a job.

“This is the case with some players who have been approached by A-League clubs but prefer to play part time football.”

“The club has everything to offer if it wanted to make a bid to play in the A-League and I would love to be part of it,” Papoythis added.

“However, consolidation in the NST is the first objective and then it’s up to the decision makers whether the A-League should be pursued.”

“A number of players in our current Marconi squad could step up to A-League if they were given the opportunity to train on a full time basis,” Spanoudakis explained.

“The N.S.T. needs to be fulltime so we can have six sessions per week, rather than only three.”

With the advent of the NST, there will also be more opportunity for coaches, but Peter Tsekenis always has adopted the philosophy of not looking too far ahead.

“I’m privileged to be coaching at one of the biggest clubs in the country and seeking success for the club this season is my main focus,” he said.

“The NST will be the next challenge and naturally to progress to a coaching job in the A-League with Marconi would be ideal.

“Beyond that I would love to be involved with the junior national teams which I experienced as a player.”

“I dream of having a full time job in football like coaches have in Europe even in the lower divisions because it’s difficult when you’re working in a business and trying to commit to football totally,” Papoythis added.

Manny Spanoudakis doesn’t look too far ahead but believes if you focus on the job at hand, opportunities will naturally present.

“I have really enjoyed my stint at Marconi for the last three years and if coaching at a higher level became available, I would consider it carefully,” he said.

“However, my main focus currently is to assist the coaching staff in their goal to add trophies to the club’s collection.”

WOW HYDRATE and Manchester United’s ‘Red Cherry’ drink aligned with mutual values

WOW HYDRATE launched its first-ever co-created ‘Red Cherry’ flavoured drink, working alongside one of the world’s biggest football clubs – demonstrating the shared mission of the two organisations that started with a multi-year global sponsorship from November last year.

WOW HYDRATE is a sports drink brand influencing the future of sports and fitness hydration, through its health benefits in the products.

Their range contains drinks with four essential electrolytes and vitamins B6, C & D – while also being sugar, fat and gluten free.

England and Manchester United centre-back Harry Maguire is a brand ambassador for WOW HYDRATE, who also partner with world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, UK boxing promotion company BOXXER, West Ham United Women’s team, rugby club Castleford Tigers and Essex Cricket.

At the heart of these collaborations is WOW HYDRATE Managing Director Queenie Porter, who shared how the new ‘Red Cherry’ drink came about.

Harry Maguire is an ambassador from Manchester United.

“We had a board meeting last summer and we have some great individual ambassadors while also prominent in the world of boxing, so we asked how can we take the next step,” she told Soccerscene.

“We were wondering how we can resonate with the sport world and touch base with the consumer.

“When looking at football clubs, the number one priority was Manchester United because they are the biggest in the world.

“It was a mutual connection because they were looking for a hydration partner, and we were of course looking for a football club. The deal happened so quickly not in a rush, but because our values aligned so well – Manchester United are fan first, whereas we are consumer first.

“The way that Manchester United run their business is like one big family – from a receptionist all the way up to CEO.

“Both of us operate in the same manner and we just clicked as a result.”

While the sports drinks are prominent in UK-based Tesco stores, we will expect to see a greater expansion in the near future.

Porter shared what we can look forward to.

“We are planning to rollout WOW HYDRATE into 600 Woolworths stores in Australia from late April this year,” she said.

“It adds to our existing reach in Dubai and Saudi Arabia, while this year will also see the push into Europe including Spain and France – while we’ll also enter the United States towards the backend of 2024.

“We want to ensure that everything will be aligned and Manchester United will be a key part of that – whenever we venture somewhere new, the Club will be involved in the launch.”

Porter on the touchline of Old Trafford with the ‘Red Cherry’ drink.

In her role, Porter is passionate about getting the very best out of women’s sport.

Rather than competing, she sees it from a different lens when assessing fan demographics.

“Naturally I’m really passionate about women’s sport, particularly in football,” she said.

“What I want to use my platform for is to support the women’s game in its own identity.

“There’s a lot around people wanting to make the men’s and women’s game equal, but I just want to focus on making the women’s game the best it can be in its own standing.

“It brings in a much more family audience, so from a brand perspective you can tap into what you otherwise would not have before.

“Women have different needs to men such as in recovery, so I want to ensure that women have the support there.

“For example with ACL injuries, our protein drink is one of the best ways to recover white muscle tissues.”

Porter with the Manchester United home shirt.

A key orchestrator of the collaboration was Victoria Timpson, Manchester United’s CEO of Alliances and Partnerships.

The Red Devils will support WOW HYDRATE in promoting all the benefits they offer.

“We are very proud to have welcomed WOW HYDRATE as Manchester United’s official sports hydration partner and excited to work with the brand on educating our fans on the importance of hydration and the science behind its products,” she said exclusively to Soccerscene.

“WOW HYDRATE’s ability to work with the club to collaborate on the dual branded Red Cherry hydration drink and make it available to our fans within months of announcing the partnership, demonstrates its strong position within the global market. WOW HYDRATE has been well received by our fans and we look forward to building on this throughout the partnership.”

WOW HYDRATE’s health benefits in its drinks allow a club like Manchester United to rest and recover from strenuous schedules including the Premier League and European competition.

The household name that is Manchester United, coupled with international expansion, makes WOW HYDRATE a name that’s one to watch.

For full details and its products, you can view WOW HYDRATE’s website here.

Brandon Borrello: Facing the challenges of professional football

2023 was shaping up to be one of Brandon Borrello’s most successful years until his whole world came tumbling down on November 25th when he was felled by a tackle from behind by Sydney FC hardman, Luke Brattan, in the Sydney derby.

Unbelievably, the misdemeanour by Brattan escaped any sanction from referee, Alex King, but left Borrello with a fractured foot which would exclude him from playing in the Asian Cup during January, 2024. It enforced a three-month layoff before he returned to the field with Western Sydney Wanderers.

Borrello had made several appearances for the Socceroos in 2023 and when he moved to the Wanderers in 2022/23 season after a five-year stint in Germany, his life in football had never looked brighter.

However, Borrello has not dwelled on the incident and approached his rehabilitation in a positive mindset while trying to regain the form which he exhibited before the foot injury.

Until Saturday’s derby with Sydney FC, Borrello was re-establishing his presence in the Wanderer’s frontline before he incurred a hamstring injury which saw him leave the field after 17 minutes with the prospect his season is finished.

Frustratingly for Borrello, he was sitting on the bench watching his team-mates concede defeat in the 97th minute after they missed a number of good chances on goal which should’ve paved the way for victory in the match.

However, after signing a three-year deal recently with the Wanderers, Borello can look forward to better times with the club.

In this interview with Roger Sleeman, Brandon Borello discusses his early days at Brisbane Roar, the German experience, the impact of his broken foot enforcing his omission from the Asian Cup and life at the Wanderers.

ROGER SLEEMAN

Can you relate your experience at Brisbane Roar and the main influences?

BRANDON BORRELLO

After the family moved to Brisbane in 2012, I attended the Queensland Academy of Sport and was coached and eventually drafted into the Roar National Youth League squad.

The following year, I was included in the first team squad under coach Mike Mulvey.

I was training with household names of the club including, Matt McKay, Matt Smith, Luke Devere and Thomas Broich.

Day in and day out I learned from these players and I was glad I hadn’t gone to Germany a year earlier.

Even as a senior player at the Wanderers, I have learned so much from seasoned campaigners – Ninkevic and Marcelo.

At the Roar, I was playing on the right while Broich operated from the left and I admired how he drifted with elegance like Ninkevic.

These players move so easily which is not common in our game and you pick up new tricks every day.

Their understanding of football and body movement left me with a lasting legacy.

R.S.

When you went to Germany in 2017 to play for Kaiserslautern, outline your initial experiences and what did you learn from the other clubs you played with in your five-year stay?

B.B.

You had to fight for your spot because you were taking somebody else’s food off the table so the other players weren’t your friends.  It was really cut-throat.

I had to improve my sharpness because when you lost the ball, you may not get it back until your opponents scored at the other end.

You have to take your chances which I worked hard on despite initially struggling, but in time I scored four goals and provided some assists.

I quickly realised you had to be on your toes all the time and you couldn’t afford to be lazy.

Critically, it was important to learn the language because I wasn’t South American or European. Being Australian, I wasn’t recognised so I had to communicate with my team-mates.

When I sustained a cruciate ligament rupture in my right knee in April 2018, I stayed in Germany to rehabilitate but at the end of the season, the club was relegated to the 3rd division.

At the other clubs Freiburg, Dusseldorf and Dresden, I experienced a multitude of situations which are well documented but most importantly I was living my dream playing professional football in one of the toughest environments in the world.

R.S.

What were the lessons you learned playing in Germany, particularly in improving your technique and your general approach to the game?

B.B.

If you’re fighting for a spot in the team, off the ball work is critical.

If you work early, you work less so there is the mental side of the game which has to be tuned to adopt these good habits.

Also, you need the consistency to take chances.

I worked constantly on a better first touch, dropping the shoulder before receiving the ball and improving body shape.

Borrello breaks clear of Newcastle’s Mark Natta.

R.S.

In your first season with the Wanderers in 2022/2023, you formed a great partnership with the Tunisian international, Amer Layouni.

Can you relate that experience?

B.B.

Although, he didn’t join the club till just after Christmas of 2023, Layouni was a pleasure to play with as he always knew where I would be making my runs and we formed a telepathic understanding.

In the first match he played against Adelaide United,  he scored a goal and set up mine.

He knew exactly where to be on the pitch and was a deadly finisher.

He was also a great character to have in the team but it’s hard to attract players like him from Europe due to the salary cap.

R.S.

You started the current season in a flurry before your injury against Sydney FC on November 25th.

How devastating was this for you and was Brattan lucky to get off scot free for the tackle?

B.B.

I heard the click immediately and it was a huge setback so early in the season.

However, to be out for three months with the fractured foot was not as bad as the ACL injury I experienced in Germany when I missed nine months playing.

I bore no remorse to Luke Brattan because I played with him at the Roar and he always played the way he trained.

He’s the sort of player you like to have in your team, not play against.

Brandon Borrello competes with Rhyan Grant in the Sydney Derby.

R.S.

How much did you miss playing in the Asian Cup?

B.B.

Obviously it was a huge disappointment because I’d played for the Socceroos in World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers, but not in the Final tournaments.

R.S.

People believed you were badly missed up front in the tournament due to your speed, ability to run across the lines, getting into good positions beyond defences and finishing prowess.

Your comment?

B.B.

I suppose I may have added some energy to the front third but Kasini Yengi and Mitch Duke did run their hearts out.

We had our chances against South Korea but it just didn’t happen for the team.

R.S.

How did you rate the overall performance of the squad in the tournament?

B.B.

The problem with these tournaments is the best available players are brought together but the cohesion required to succeed is often lacking because of the limited time the players have together.

Even European teams playing against Asian opponents in tournaments like this would find it hard because they fall down and bunker down in defence.

Borrello looks on for the Socceroos.

R.S.

How hard was it for you to settle back into the Wanderers squad after you returned from the injury to your foot?

B.B.

In the first three weeks, I was attempting to exert my energy with pressing and running  and had to take a few deep breaths through the game to regain my composure.

The other players were 100% match fit while I was only 95%  by this time but before the derby last Saturday, I was feeling totally confident about my general movement and fitness levels.

We had a thorough warmup before the start of the match and my hamstring injury was just one of those unfortunate events.

R.S.

A lack of consistency has been ever present in the Wanderer’s game during the last few matches, including the late losses to Brisbane Roar and the Sydney derby last weekend.

How can this be reversed?

B.B.

We need to win more personal duels to gain more possession and create more domination of games.

As the first line of defence, the strikers have to press hard on the opposing defence and as Mark Rudan has said, the team needs to follow game plans and not replicate mistakes.

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