The likes of Soper, Raskopoulos and Kalantzis, whose very existence as footballers seemed to be for the purpose of entertainment and inspiration of the working-class fans who dedicated their lives in the pursuit of an ethos of attack, attack, attack.
Left behind are the stages of football theatre that once set the stage for the weekly escape of Olympic fans. Though the blue-and-white-stripped Sydney club no longer grace the pitches of Wentworth, Pratten and St. George Stadium, this season, some of the most loyal and dedicated football fans in Australia have had another hero to cheer ? even if they aren?t too sure of his name.
Whether it be his surging runs down the sidelines, tenacious tackling or his willingness to score from set-pieces from ever conceivable position on the pitch, the long-haired figure of Shannon Cole has provided moments of nostalgia for a generation of a by-gone era.
Sadly for Sydney Olympic faithful, this may be Shannon?s last two months at the club as the season draws to a thrilling climax. With reported interest from A-League sides chasing after this prodigious 23 year-old wing-back, Shannon Cole may about to be gone but will certainly ? if only for a few hundred fans ? not be forgotten.
This week, Football NSW catches up with Shannon Cole, a man with a penchant for attacking play, whose return to the Sydney Olympic side after a long-term ankle injury has coincided with the team scoring 12 goals in their last 3 games. How?s that for influential?
We spoke with Shannon about the interest he has attracted from A-League clubs, the difficulty of having to watch his team from the side-lines for the majority of this season, about how Patrick Vieira and Steven Gerrad helped him to return to the pitch and his desire to capture silverware with Sydney Olympic.
FNSW: Shannon, after such a promising start to the season, winning the Johnny Warren Cup with Olympic and playing so well, was having to suddenly sit on the sideline with injury tough for you?
SC: Yes of course. It?s not a fun thing to do but it also makes you appreciate training and playing a lot more, when you have to sit out and watch the boys. As soon as I was given the all clear to start training again I was a lot more enthusiastic ? well, I?m always enthusiastic ? but I had that extra hunger from having to sit out and watch.
FNSW: Your excellent form in the Johnny Warren Cup and early in the Telechoice Premier League season was rumoured to have alerted a number of A-League clubs to your presence. At the time, did you know of any specific expressions of interest from teams in Australia?s top flight of football?
SC: I got told here and there that there were a number of clubs looking at me but it never really went past rumours and then obviously the injury made my priority getting back onto the park, so it never really got beyond talk.
FNSW: Now that you have recovered from your ankle injury, is your main aim earning an A-League contract or is your focus purely on playing football consistently for the remainder of the season?
SC: It?s difficult to say really because obviously I?d love to play in the A-League but if I don?t perform at this level that isn?t going to happen. So my one and only priority now is playing my best for Sydney Olympic and winning what we can.
FNSW: Do you personally believe that the injury hampered your A-League prospects? If you hadn?t suffered the injury, would you have an A-League contract by now?
SC: It?s easy to say that. A lot of people have said to me ?If only you didn?t get hurt? but it?s part of football: you can only control some things. I look after my muscles as much as I can but my ankle was hurt through a tackle and I can?t do anything about that.
So the answer is no, not really. People have said it to me but I ignore that. I got hurt for a reason. What if I played the next game and something else had happened? I?m just enjoying being back on the park now, I?m not upset because I got hurt because I feel great right now and that might not have been the case.
FNSW: From a personal perspective, do you think you are good enough to play in the A-League?
SC: In one word, yes. But then again, its not saying that I?m a standout from the league because I think there are a lot of players who – given the opportunity – could definitely perform at that level. There?s a lot of players playing in the Telechoice Premier League, who we have to remember are part-time footballers as opposed to professionals players at A-League clubs, so if you took a lot of players out of the Premier League and put them in a full-time environment, they would be able to step-up to the challenge.
If you look at the standard of players, inconsistency is one of the main disadvantages of our league. Look at Mile Jedinak, who is an A-League stand-out now but not so long ago was playing in the Premier League ? and there are probably a lot of guys in a similar situation. In particular there are a lot of players at Olympic who ifs given that opportunity, would more than live up to expectations.?
FNSW: In terms of your recovery, was it mainly a personal struggle or did the club have a big influence in overcoming your injury?
SC: To be honest, I read a lot of books! In that time I think I read Steven Gerrard?s autobiography and I?ve just finished reading Patrick Vieira?s autobiography and that sort of gives me an escape; when I finish reading I?ve got more hunger to do my exercises.
But the club has been a great help. The club physio Kenny Michalopoulos did a great job with me, always calling me everyday to see how I was and whether I was doing everything properly and Milan Blagojevic was very understanding in bringing me back. There were a couple of matches where I thought I?d be playing, where he instead rested me to avoid risk and have me playing at my best toward the end of the season, playing as many games as possible. So they were very supportive and they never rushed me.
The worst thing is when you?re injured and you feel like you?re letting everyone down. So it was good that the club were so understanding.
FNSW: If you don?t manage to get an A-League contract, will you be playing with Sydney Olympic next season?
SC: I?ll see what happens. I?ll focus on the next two months and see what we can win with Olympic.
FNSW: Shannon, thanks for your time and good luck with the remainder of the season.
-By Chris Paraskevas