‘He’s just responded so well’: Merrick praises Koutroumbis after first start back from cancer diagnosis

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Just 10 weeks ago, the Newcastle Jets announced that Johnny Koutroumbis had been diagnosed with stage one thyroid cancer, and would require immediate surgery and treatment.

On Wednesday night, Koutroumbis impressed his coach with his first start since his treatment in Newcastle’s 2-2 draw against Brisbane Roar.

Ernie Merrick had nothing but praise and admiration for Johnny Koutroumbis who put on an inspired and energetic display in a frustrating draw to Brisbane Roar at home.

“Johnny for a 21 year old just recovering from cancer – I just thought it was a great story, a great performance, and I wasn’t going to take him off,” Merrick said

The defender was given the task of marking Eric Bautheac, and Koutroumbis did well to keep the experienced French attacker quiet for most of the game.

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“I thought he (Koutroumbis) was outstanding and he was up against a very good player in Bautheac.

“Bautheac’s a seasoned professional and he came strong at the end there and caused us some problems.”

In the 86th minute, Bautheac was able to evade his marker and equalise for Brisbane with a header on the back post. It was clear that Koutroumbis wanted to mark his inspiring return with a goal, and he came close with a handful of attempts and forward runs throughout the game.

“He’s just responded so well. It would have been great if he’d got a goal at the end or something because he was trying his best.

“Because he’s tried to do that, he got caught out at the other end.

“It wasn’t his fault, but the guy that scored was in his area. Then there’s another couple players there as well, plus the cross came in very easily without much pressure on the ball,” Merrick said.

Koutroumbis was an important squad player during Newcastle’s incredible run in the 2017/18 season that ended with the club’s first grand final appearance in ten years.

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He provides invaluable depth to the squad that is especially important during times in the season where games come thick and fast.

In the Jets’ draw with Brisbane, fatigue was certainly a factor having lost through a late penalty at home to Adelaide three days earlier.

“Although we did deteriorate and get tired, I still think we created good enough chances to win the game,” Merrick said.

It’s likely we’ll see more of Johnny Koutroumbis as Merrick continues to rotate his squad to keep his players fresh and free of injury.

Featured Image Credit: Sproule Sports Focus

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Harry Keating
Harry Keating
Intern at The Football Sack covering The Newcastle Jets A-League and W-League home matches!

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