After five seasons with the Newcastle Jets, 23-year-old John Koutroumbis jetted off to the Western Sydney Wanderers, being just one of many recruits in a new look Wanderers outfit.
Entering a new environment after such a journeyed stay with the Jets, Koutroumbis says that he’s fitted in well at his new club and has been delighted with his start to preseason.
“It’s only been five weeks since we’ve started preseason but it’s pretty exciting times considering – especially the squad, all the new signings, the squad depth, good players that have been signed and training, I’m happy, I’m happy as I can be – happy and excited are the words I can describe it,” Koutroumbis told Kick360.
“It’s a privilege to be part of this [the Wanderers], I haven’t been part of a squad with this much quality and players with resumes.
“It’s almost like an honor to be part of this [team] a championship contending winning side and I can’t thank gaffer [Carl Robinson] and the club enough for bringing me across.”
Koutroumbis was one three new defenders the club signed over the offseason with Adama Traore coming across from the Victory and Rhys Williams returning to the A-League from Saudi side Al Qadsiah.
Koutroumbis will be reunited with his former coach Carl Robinson, who rated the young defender highly during his time as the Jets.
Koutroumbis heralds Robinson as a major reason in moving to the Wanderers, saying he’s a coach which has showed a lot of faith when he came to coach the Jets and helped him regain form.
“He was very influential [in me coming across], he gave me the belief that I lost a little bit at Newcastle, and he gave me the belief when he came in and reassured me if I do well if I train hard I’ll play games,” he said.
“Unfortunately he moved on, it was unfortunate at the time and now that he moved clubs and it’s a new season, he’s seen what I have to offer and basically he brought me along, and I guess he has belief in me which gives me belief in myself.”
Playing for one of the biggest clubs in the league, Koutroumbis says he’s looking forward to playing in front of the famous Wanderers supporters and is also keen to play in fixtures against crosstown rivals Sydney FC.
“One thing that I’ve been talking about to my parents and my friends is [that] I can’t wait to play in a Sydney derby,” he said.
“I’ve only seen it on TV and I haven’t experienced it, from what I’ve heard from other players it’s definitely an experience that is unreal.
“I can’t wait for fans to come back, Western Sydney are one of the biggest clubs in Australia with one of the biggest fanbases so I just can’t wait to get out there and represent the team in front of all the fans that support us.”
Though just 23, Koutroumbis has been in the A-League system for five years making his debut for the Jets back in 2016, and credited then coach Mark Jones as the first person to give him the opportunity to play professionally.
Playing under Jones in the Adelaide United’s NPL side, Koutroumbis says he originally started as a midfielder but his career didn’t take off until switching to defense and playing as a central defender.
“At the time Mark Jones was my NPL coach for Adelaide United and I was playing midfield at the time, we had a couple of injuries and we weren’t doing well in the league at time,” he said.
“So he decided to push me back further in defence and I played there for a couple games and we ended up staying in the top division in SA [South Australia] with just a few games to spare.
“And then at the end of that season he was appointed Newcastle Jets coach so he left, and they were two or three games into the season where two of the centre backs got injured.
“So on a Sunday he called me and said that he needed me in Newcastle for an injury replacement, and I was more than happy to jump on a plane within two days and get straight into it.”
Koutroumbis also reflected back to the 2018-19 season, after having cemented himself in the squad and played in a grand final the season before with the Jets, he’d contract stage one thyroid cancer and was sidelined for a period of time.
Though admitting it was a tough period in his life, he says that it was a life experience that he wouldn’t change calling it a great learning experience.
“In my third season of being at the Jets after their grand final year and it was tough time for myself, my family as well – especially my parents,” he said.
“Looking back at it now things happen out of your control and you can be either down in the dumps or think negatively but at the end of the day it was out of our control, these things just happen for a reason I think, and people aren’t just unlucky.
“Looking at it in a positive sense you learn a lot about yourself, people around you, it’s just a life experience that I wouldn’t take back because it’s an experience that no one really goes through and I’ve learnt a lot from it.
Koutroumbis would also draw back on his time representing the Australia U23s, saying though not being part of the Olympic squad being part of the camps in the lead up were worthwhile experiences.
“I got called in with Arnie [Graham Arnold] for a couple of camps in the journey for the Olympics,” he said.
“It was great to be in that environment where youngsters around the league and overseas come together and prepare for a national duty, it was a great experience to have, especially going away for camps in Malaysia and Canberra and to have [played in] the tournament in Cambodia.
“Unfortunately due to injury I was unavailable for the Olympics itself but I don’t take back anything, it was a great effort from the boys.
“The squad that was chosen was the best one available and it was a good tournament to watch, the boys definitely showed the pundits that Australia that are competitive, in the future I’m looking forward to hopefully by working hard and improving myself that one day I will be in that Socceroos squad.”
Image Supplied: Western Sydney Wanderers