Ikonomidis reveals the decision that led to a Socceroos recall

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It’s the route less travelled, but Chris Ikonomidis’ decision to leave Europe in favour of joining Perth Glory has turned him from a player at the crossroads into a national star.

“I was at a bit of a fork in the road, and I really took my time to make the decision,” Ikonomidis told The Football Sack, after tabling a multitude of offers for his services leading up to the 2018/19 season.

It wasn’t an easy decision for the 23-year-old, who spent the beginning of his professional career based at Italian giants Lazio, gaining experience from a variety of loan moves around Italy and Denmark before a brief loan spell with Western Sydney Wanderers last season turned his head back toward home.

“Giving myself the best chance to get back to the national setup as well as progress my career, those were the two main factors of my decision,” Ikonomidis said.

“Probably the deciding factor was Tony Popovic’s desire to get me to the club, because he was so persistent in calling me and pleading his case.

“He didn’t promise me he could get me back to the Socceroos but he promised me that I would come back and really start enjoying my football again. He told me he believed I’m good enough to play for the national team.

“The belief in me from someone with such a high reputation in Australian football, that was almost a good enough factor within itself to choose the Glory.”

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Ikonomidis signed a three-year contract at Perth Glory in September 2018, at which stage a Socceroos call-up – particularly for the Asian Cup – seemed light-years away.

But his barn-storming form through the first nine rounds of the A-League season shot him into the nation team conversation and with injuries to a number of key Socceroos Graham Arnold turned to the red-hot Ikonomidis to plug the gap in his side.

“I went there with a real excitement just to get started training, that was the first thing for me,” Ikonomidis said upon joining the squad in the UAE.

“I didn’t think ‘will I play, will I not play?’ I just wanted to get into training.

“I wanted to get back into that environment – it had been a couple of years – and to see how I am now in that environment with two more years of experience.”

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Socceroos coach Graham Arnold named Ikonomidis on the bench for Australia’s opening game of the Asian cup: a dismal 1-0 loss to Jordan.

After the disappointment of the opening game Arnold threw the Glory star into the starting line-up and Ikonomidis seized the opportunity with both hands.

In total, the Socceroos scored six goals over the following four games. Ikonomidis scored one of them and assisted four more.

“I am very proud considering I wasn’t on the radar just a few months ago,” Ikonomidis said.

“On a personal level I’m very pleased I added six caps to my tally, I can’t deny how happy I am about that.

“I made a big decision to come back to Australia and play and get in the coaches face. Just a few months later to end up being the player with four assists and one goal is very pleasing on a personal level for me and my family.”

Ikonomidis was denied the opportunity to continue his barn-storming form deep into the knockout stages of the tournament after the Socceroos came up short in a 1-0 loss to UAE in the quarter finals of the competition.

It was a disappointing result for the holders of the tournament but after having a taste of national team football Ikonomidis is hungry for more.

“I want to do my best every time I get chosen to play for Australia,” Ikonomidis said.

“No one really knows when their last game for their country is going to be so that’s the way you have to look at it and be grateful for every camp you’re in.

“Once you’re on the pitch you leave everything you have out there.”

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Returning back to Perth after the taxing Asian Cup campaign has done nothing to dampen Ikonomidis’ hunger to hit the ground running with his club side.

The Glory star says he was putting his hand up to play against Newcastle on Sunday afternoon despite arriving home from UAE in the early hours of the same morning.

“I wanted to play,” Ikonomidis said.

“I asked a couple of the boys if they thought the boss was going to use me at all even as a sub but they said no way.

“I can’t wait to get started again, the boys are looking sharp and have showed me why they maintained that top spot since I’ve been gone.”

As the A-League season carries into its latter stages, Ikonomidis is keen to use all that he learned in the national team setup to improve his game and contribute further to Perth Glory’s run at a maiden league championship.

“I’ve learned a lot from Arnie [Arnold] and René [assistant coach René Meulensteen] in the past month,” Ikonomidis said.

“Every little bit of advice they gave me on that camp I soaked it up like a sponge so I’m going to bring that into my game as well, and hopefully add another dimension to my attack.”

Feature image credit: Vision Inspired Photography

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Matthew Comito
Matthew Comito
Football nut, student journalist and firm believer that Berisha dived in the 2012 A-League Grand Final. Covering Perth Glory for the 2018/19 season.

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