Reborn as the ?West Sydney Berries? and making their comeback appearance at the highest level of football in NSW this season, the Telechoice Premier League battlers are proudly captained by the man affectionately known as ?Archie?.
A speedy left-sided player with a penchant for attacking play, despite his side?s disappointing lack of form over the past few weeks ? four losses and a draw in the last five matches ? Kotsopoulos has experienced somewhat of a resurgence at left-back, consistently troubling opposition defenders with his lung-busting runs from deep and superb deliveries into the box.
Kotsopoulos has seen much change at the Berries in his life at the club, from relegation to promotion, heart-ache to triumph. He has been at the club long enough in fact, to have played alongside Canterbury-Marrickville Olympic legend Spiro Hantzis ? who is now part of the Berries coaching staff.
This week Football NSW catches up with West Sydney Berries captain Archie Kotsopoulos, a man whose desire for success and pride in the much changed club crest, has not worn thin over 16 emotional years.
FNSW: Luck seems to have been against the Berries this season Archie. You?ve played some decent football during the campaign, so how does a side react to a loss like the one you experience at the hands of APIA Leichhardt on the weekend?
AC: Obviously we were disappointed after the game because being two-nil down at half-time, there were still high spirits in the dressing room. The coach, Ramsin, just assured us that if we stayed positive and played to our game plan we?d put away the opportunities that we?d eventually get.
We didn?t have any disbelief or thought that we weren?t going to come out and get the goals back ? we had belief in our ability to continue playing and pressing forward, so it was about making sure we just got out into the middle and took the mistakes out of our game.
It was a bit unfortunate coming back from 2-nil down, getting the two goals but still losing. Sometimes you need a bit of luck in the game but unfortunately they got another goal.
We had a chance again on the weekend but we?ve had a few unlucky situations in the games of late but all the boys in the team are always positive in training and so it is still business as usual. We have to turn up every week and even though we haven?t had the luck at the moment, we still stay positive.
We ourselves know as a team that there is no other side out there that we should fear and going by some of the latest performances against the teams that are on top of us, we?ve obviously been just a little bit unlucky.
FNSW: Ramsin Shamon is your new coach and he?s obviously brought a different style of management, how has the side?s reaction to him been?
AC: Ramsin has allowed the players to give certain ideas to the coaching staff that might change it up a bit, particularly at training.
It?s like a new lease of life for the team. In fact, some of the boys have said that when you?re going through a bad patch in the games or at training, sometimes you feel down but Ramsin?s enthusiasm as a first-time Premier League coach, he has brought his own influence to the team.
The training sessions are enjoyable and you can tell every player is wanting to train and everybody?s enthusiastic. Sometimes you go through bad patches but at the moment, even though we haven?t won a game or gotten the results, everybody?s positive, still coming to training full of energy and enthusiasm and that?s what you need at this level. Sometimes you don?t get what you want but eventually if you work hard, you?ll start to get the results.
FNSW: You?ve been at the club for 16 years and it?s been a very tough return to the Telechoice Premier League in a lot of ways for the Berries. However, as a captain and long-time player, you must have a lot of pride in the way the boys have conducted themselves this season and the way the club has performed. They?ve been very competitive.
AC: The good thing is that in years gone by, I?ve stuck with the club through thick and thin. Being in the Premier League when it first started back in the 2000/2001 season was a good experience for me being so young. Having that feeling of playing in the league which is the top competition underneath the A-League gives you that desire to do the best you can.
In the first year we got relegated back into the Super League though, we came back and won the grand final, so I?ve have my highs and lows at the club. Last year again, we were back in Division 1 and we won the Minor Premiership.
But the club has always been professional in any league we?ve been in. We always strive to win and go as far as we possibly can. Now this year, having a whole new team where only 4 or 5 of us were kept at the club from last year, to be able produce and perform at the highest level under the A-League has been another incentive, especially for the younger boys at the club and the new ones like Sasha Tirovski, Kosta Lagoudakis and Michael Cunico.
All those guys have played in this league and they?ve brought experience as well. So all-in-all, being a new team and a bunch of blokes who haven?t actually played with each other, its just so good to have youth and experience blended together, particularly with Angelo Petratos who has also played overseas.
But so far I think this club can be proud of the way we?ve conducted ourselves in the games this year. We?ve obviously hoped we could have won more matches but you try to do the best you can having had such a short time to prepare
But I think the club is only going to get stronger and hopefully in the next 6 weeks we can string a few more wins together and finish off on a really good high. Considering this is our first year back in the Premier League, we?ve had some good results.
FNSW: We?ve spoken briefly about the club?s aspirations but on a personal level, is this the club where you will finish your career at or do you want to try and win an A-League contract in the future?
AC: To tell you the truth, I met Ian Ferguson [Head Coach of the Central Coast Mariners] on the weekend at Lambert Park and he was telling me that there were opportunities for a lot of players in this league to play in the A-League.
You?re never too old and I go out there with my heart on my sleeve week-in, week-out, and I try to do the best for my team, for my club and for my team-mates because that is what it is all about. Football is a team sport, there are 18 players in a squad who are all striving to do the best they can and individual effort gets noticed but that is something that players don?t necessarily strive for all the time.
We?re a team and we strive to play as a team first and foremost and then individuality comes within the team performance. Even in a losing team though, you can get a good wrap.
I?d love to finish off at the West Sydney Berries because that is where I pretty much started my career and having been here for 16 years, the club has looked after me and I?ve tried to do the best I could for the club as well.
Getting the captaincy at any club or at any level is an honour and having that next to your name is something that you can not only take pride in but show on the pitch by leading by example. A captain is not only someone who can encourage players and tell players what to do but captaincy is also about doing it on the pitch, where you lead from the front.
Every player that I?ve played against or played with, I notice that the young guys always look up to us and being one of the senior players, I did the same when I was younger. I looked up to all of the older players like Spiro Hantzis. I?ve actually been fortunate to play with Spiro Hantzis and now he?s giving me more input as a member of the coaching staff.
I will cherish every good moment and every bad moment I?ve had at Marrickville and the West Sydney Berries.
FNSW: To finish off on a lighter note, you?ve been known as a practical joker amongst team-mates. What?s the story?
AC: Look, the jokes I say or do aren?t necessarily personal! It might be a joke here or there but all-in-all it is about having fun.
You enjoy your job but you also want to have a laugh. I think having a laugh about your job ? and football is a job as well ? allows you to have fun and everybody enjoys it.
As they say, laughter is the best medicine and there?s nothing better than having a good laugh at a training session.
But at the game it is all professional: no jokes. Concentrating on the game is what it is all about. During the week you can have a laugh and a joke but then it is about doing the business on the weekend.
You could say I?m a bit of a joker, but it?s all good!
FNSW: Archie, best of luck with the weekend?s match against Manly and for the rest of the season.
AC: Thank you.
-By Chris Paraskevas