Adelaide United Youth Team Head Coach, Michael Valkanis, says his squad’s successful campaign “was nothing short of amazing”, after clinching the NPL State League title on the last day of the season.
Valkanis met with his fellow coaches more than 14 months ago to prepare and discuss the club’s first stint in South Australia’s NPL State League.
During these early stages, the former United defender turned coach set three, somewhat farfetched goals for the team, so much so that upon accomplishing all three, he simply didn’t know how to react.
“In preparation for the first time competing in the local competition, I started off by stating my three objectives to all my staff and players,” Valkanis explained.
“One: to play good football; two: by playing this good football to win the senior and reserve competitions; and lastly: to finish with the top goal scorer.
“So when you look at it now, we reached for the sky and it paid off. But in the end it was all our hard work that did it and with the boys putting in so much effort we achieved it all.”
The Young Reds finished top of the NPL State League with 66 points after winning 21 games and secured the Championship ahead of Adelaide Olympic on goal difference alone. The side also scored a total of 112 goals yet conceded just 33 over the 30 games in their campaign.
And with the hallmark of any good coach, Valkanis’ faith in his squad never shifted, regardless of the circumstances, noting a fixture early in the season against Adelaide Cobras, which saw his side rally from two goals down to salvage a last minute 3-3 draw.
“If you look at the Cobras game, we were trailing 3-1 and that was a very hard period for us because we were also playing in the National Youth League at the same time,” Valkanis said.
“So we had faced Melbourne Victory on the Sunday afternoon, we flew back home the next day, and had to quickly refresh and recover because on the Tuesday we were playing Cobras.
“I’ll never forget it because I was really disappointed in the result.
“We had more than enough chances to win the game and we played really well regardless of the travelling and our fatigue.
“I remember after the game, Ange (Costanzo) told me that we could either look at the game as if we dropped two points, or that the result could prove pivotal in winning the title, and it was.”
The Young Red’s triumph means that in 2016 the squad will be competing in the First Division of the National Premier League against far greater experienced sides such as Adelaide City, Adelaide Blue Eagles, and MetroStars. Nevertheless, Valkanis knows how important United’s footballing style is in being able to gain our spectator’s respect, but also the other local football clubs throughout the first tier of the NPL.
“We’re going to look to play good football again next season,” Valkanis stated.
“I know these teams are going to be more experienced, as they have got higher profile players, and I know they’re also physically better off as opposed to State League teams, but what we are going to do is try to push our opposition to their limits.
“We hope that our spectators will be pleased with the football we produce next season, and are impressed with our young side’s willingness to play their football in a beautiful way.
“Our belief is that if we can play good football and we are as attacking and clinical as we were this season, we will definitely win more games than we lose and will be on-track for more success.”