Dream Team 2021 - Forwards

In 2021, as part of our 70th anniversary celebrations, a Dream Team of past and current players was voted for.

Now we turn our attention to the wingers, strikers and goalscorers - THE FORWARDS.

 

George Nikolias 1952-1960
One of Athena’s pioneer clubmen, George Nikolias played in the inaugural season of 1952 and helped shape and create the Athena history we have today. Former players have described him as a scoring powerhouse who helped propel the club from the lower leagues to a competitive force in WA’s topflight by the end of the decade. Nikolias is the only original player to be nominated in the Dream Team series.

John Pilkadaris 1954-1968
Often teaming up with his younger brother Peter, John Pilkadaris emerged as a prolific goal scorer in the 60s. Having played 264 games for the blue and whites and scoring 263 career goals across three divisions, the tall and dynamic striker appears to be in a league of his own. With a club fairest and best under his belt and three years with state honours from 1961-1964 Pilkadaris’ highlight includes his seven-goal haul against Inglewood Kiev in the second division.

John Sydenham 1974, 1980-1982
A 401-game veteran for Southampton and a former England youth international Sydenham played with the best and against the best. He was as close to football royalty as they come when he arrived at Athena in May 1974 with fellow Dream Team nominee Steve Stacey. He only played for a season but was lured back to Western Australia in 1980 as player-coach to help Athena rise to topflight football after it was relegated to the second division. Sydenham built a career off his pacy left wing attacks for the Saints dating back to 1959. He played against Manchester United great George Best and England’s 1966 World Cup skipper Bobby Charlton. He even managed to bring out former English international Alan Ball and Scottish international Ted McDougal as guest players to help Athena rise to the top. Sydenham’s presence coupled with his magical foot skills inspired a generation including the likes of future young guns Taki Nicolaidis and Vas Kalogeracos. These days at almost 82 years old, John lives on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria with wife Jean. He recently sent the club a host of memorabilia and photos which will be on display for the 70th anniversary dinner.

Vince Alcock 1975-1979
An enigma and a character, Vince “Vinny” Alcock proved he could play up front and in defence and match it with the best of them. The fiery Englishman joined Athena in 1975 after spending some time in New Zealand. He immediately hit the ground running taking out the club’s golden boot in 1975 and capped it off with a fairest and best the year after. He was part of the team’s 1975 Top Four Cup win and was part of the historic maiden league winning team of 1977. In 1979 Alcock claimed the Rothman’s medal (Leagues’ Fairest and Best) by two points, playing for Athena not up front but as a defender for the whole season. Last month Alcock took part in the club’s annual sponsors day and reconnected with former teammate and Dream Team nominee Colin Bowles. In recent days Alcock brought back his Golden boot and Fairest and Best trophies to the club, adding “they deserve to be home now”.

Dimitrios Thomas 1981-1987
Dimitrios Thomas is said to be one of the best junior Athena products in the history of the club who made his senior league debut at the tender age of 14, making him the youngest player at the time to play senior league football in Western Australia. However, by his own admission he had “all the talent but not the right attitude”. With countless junior state honours under his belt and being part of the All-Australian Schoolboys team, Thomas was invited to a six-week trial with English Premier League club Leeds United (while still in high school) where he was subsequently offered a professional contract but declined the offer due to family reasons. He won a night series title in 1985 and was part of the second division league win in 1981. He would later become coach and President of the Athena Cricket club and spent several years on Athena youth, junior and senior committees, ultimately becoming President of the Club. It was under his stewardship as Athena President the club was awarded the three-million-dollar federal government grant in 2018.

Paul Wormley 1984-1989
Paul Wormley is another icon of the 80’s soccer scene in Perth and his career duly flourished when he arrived in Perth in January 1984, after spending a season with former National Soccer League Club West Adelaide Hellas. He originally agreed to terms with Melbourne based Greek club, Heidelberg Alexander but the deal fell through, so he followed his Adelaide coach Alan Vest across the Nullarbor. It proved to be a fruitful move as Wormley was named the club’s fairest and best in his first year and backed it up again in 1985. He shone in the 1984 and 1988 Top Four Cup wins, the 85 Night series final, was instrumental in the halcyon days from 1987 to 1989 where the team won three State Cups in a row, and the minor premierships from 1987-1989. He was the league’s top scorer in 1988 and represented Western Australia the entire time he played for the blue and white.

Paul Farmer 1985-1990
While considered more of an attacking midfielder or winger, Paul Farmer was another young import who was instrumental and integral to Athena’s glory days in the mid to late 1980s. Having been named the state player’s player of the year in 1986, Farmer enjoyed the team accolades which included the 85-night series title, a league double in 1988 and three state cups titles between 1987 and 1989. He was part of the Western Australian state team in a friendly which faced off against Moscow Torpedo in 1990 before leaving Athena later that year to join National Soccer League outfit Wollongong Wolves. Today he still kicks a ball around playing in the master’s league and has represented Australia in the senior’s world cup playing alongside former Athena stars Vas Kalogeracos and Adrian Sutton.

John Hunter 1988-1990
John “The Hurricane” Hunter launched his football career at Ayr United in Scotland, the same club former Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson played at in 1973. Hunter arrived in Perth in 1986 and swiftly settled in the state league quickly writing himself into the record books. In 1988 he was signed by Athena and immediately made an impact helping the team win the League and Cup double. In 1989 he helped the team win the Minor Premiership and State Cup and in 1990 had a breakout year, taking out the competition’s golden boot, scoring 31 goals in just 17 matches. It was enough to be awarded the Rothman’s Fairest and Best player, the 6PR player of the year and Athena’s player of the year. He represented the state seven times and scored the only goal in a friendly against Moscow Torpedo at the WACA in 1990. After moving overseas for several years, John came back to Athena and coached the senior league team in 2000. John is also a WA Football Hall of Fame inductee.

Michael Roki 1989-1991, 1997-1999
As a player and coach Michael Roki made a significant contribution to Athena and it’s hard to separate the impact, he had both as player and coach. He first wore the blue and white in 1989 after being signed in February that year in the back of a former team manager’s luxury Mercedes! He would go on to be part of the minor premiership and the State Cup winning team. The next year Athena scooped the league title after an undefeated run and would go on to be part of the minor premiership winning team in 1992. During his first stint with Athena, Roki played for the state against Moscow Torpedo and Singapore in 1990. During his second stint in 1997, Roki took out the league’s golden boot award, which he shared with former Socceroo Troy Halpin, playing an integral part in Athena’s historic winning treble the same year. From 1999 he would go on to coach the club for the next decade, (initially as player coach in 2000) guiding the team to an undefeated League title in 2007, three nights series finals and a State Cup title in 2009.

Stan Lazaridis 1991-1992
Arguably the greatest Greek-Australian football export Australia has produced, Stan Lazaridis has achieved cult hero status in some parts of England where he built a long-lasting career. At 16 years of age Lazaridis was already making headlines in football circles and was a star on the rise. His youth career started with Kingsway Olympic, spent a season with Stirling’s senior team and then moved across to Athena. It was during his 28-game haul with the blue and whites that he captured the attention of national soccer league scouts and moved to fellow Greek based club, West Adelaide Hellas. In 1995, Lazaridis joined English Premier League Club West Ham for a then record WA transfer fee of £300,000. He played 88 times for the London club over four seasons before moving to First Division club Birmingham City for a fee of £1.7Million. Lazardis was an integral part of The Blues' promotion to the Premier League - scoring from the spot in the 2002 First Division Playoff Final against Norwich - as Birmingham won on penalties. A Socceroo and inductee in the WA Institute of Sport Hall of Fame and an inductee in the WA Football Hall of Fame, it’s safe to say he’s seen and done it all when it comes to the world game. Lazaridis is one of only two former Athena players who has part of Litis Stadium named after him, thus earning him a club legend status.

Bobby Despotovski 1993-1994
After returning to his birthplace of Perth from war-torn Yugoslavia at the end of 1992, Bobby Despotovski started pre-season with Athena ahead of the ’93 Premier League season. He didn’t know it at the time, but his career was about to be launched onto the national soccer stage. Despotovski was part of the Athena squad in 1993, which finished as League runners up. The next year he was playing in the National Soccer League, and two years after that he was a regular face of Perth Glory Football Club. Despotovski went on to play for the Socceroos, win the A-League’s first Johnny Warren Medal and is the Glory’s leading all time goal scorer. Its undeniable that the amazing skills and goal scoring form displayed during his two seasons at Athena helped unearth his national football career.

Vas Kalogeracos 1993-94, 1995-1996, 1997
Vasili The “Greek Freak” Kalogeracos became a household name when Perth Glory launched onto the national soccer league in 1996, using his blistering pace, dazzling defenders, and scoring goals galore. But the pacy attacker learnt his craft as an Athena junior who witnessed some of the greats of the 70s and early 80s plying their trade week-in week-out on the pitch. Kalogeracos made his senior debut in the ‘93 season after having spent some time with the Australian Institute of Sport and then signing with Birmingham in England after impressing scouts in Australia’s U-17s World Cup campaign in 1991. He was in Athena’s squad which finished runners up in the hunt for the league title in ‘93, played in the 94-night series final and was a member of the victorious State Cup win in 1997, under former NSL coach Jim Pyrgolios. Kalogeracos was a goal scoring hero for the Glory and took out the SBS goal of the year in the club’s inaugural season. He played in Greece, Melbourne, England, and Italy but there’s no denying his magic all started at Litis Stadium. He is only one of two former players where part of the stadium is named after him, earning him a club legend status.