Tsattalios to make it count

Niko Tsattalios never gave up on his goal of returning to professional football and has vowed to make the most of his second chance in the A-League with the Wellington Phoenix.

Niko Tsattalios never gave up on his goal of returning to professional football and has vowed to make the most of his second chance in the A-League with the Wellington Phoenix.

Tsattalios became the youngest-ever A-League debutant at 17 years and 225 days when he came off the bench for Sydney FC against Perth in 2007.

But a lack of game-time under coach John Kosmina saw him released in 2009 and when a six-month stint with the Newcastle Jets failed to get him a long-term deal he was forced to drop down to the NSW Premier League where he played for Sydney Olympic (2010) and Sutherland Sharks (2011).

But the 21-year-old never considered giving up his dream of playing professionally and his determination was rewarded earlier this week when he was signed as an under-21 player by the Wellington A-League club after impressing coach Ricki Herbert during a two-week trial.

"I've been through some terrible times, frustrating times, talking it over with my parents about the possibilities of going back to studying and that," Tsattalios told Sportal.

"But I was always stubborn. I always told them I'm not going to give it up until I've given it another shot at least."

"You have to have that stubborn streak so that when you come across situations like that you can pull through in the end."

"If I'd dropped a bundle and got a normal job so to speak and got back to an easy routine, which I don't like, I would have probably missed out on this opportunity."

"I'm glad that I pursued it. This is obviously the beginning again for me - a clean slate - and I'll look to take full advantage of this opportunity that Ricki and the club have given me."

The left-back admitted there were probably a few reasons why things did not work out for him as a youngster at Sydney.

"I was very raw back then," he conceded.

"I had it in me but I wasn't given the opportunities I would have liked. If I'd had a coach that believed in me and given me the confidence I believe I would have gone from strength to strength and I wouldn't have had that absence from the A-League. I would have possibly pushed on to bigger and better things."

However he felt things at the Phoenix would be different.

"I believe Ricki is one of those coaches that once he backs you, he believes in his players and I'm feeling really confident already after those four games," Tsattalios said.

"I know they've only been friendlies but I've taken some confidence from it and I'll keep trying to push on from here."

He is also getting used to the rigours of daily training again - and surviving strength and conditioning coach Lee Taylor's intense pre-season fitness sessions.

"He's a bit of a hard man isn't he?" Tsattalios said laughing.

"It's been good. It is hard work and I'm sure if you ask around the whole team they would say the same thing. It's pretty intense."

"But I've been looking forward to getting back into this professional environment so I'm not going to sit there and complain about coming to training every day and getting thrashed."

"It's been different obviously coming back from the state league where it's training three times a week to the professional level where it's every day of the week. But I'm enjoying it."