Loan signing Terry Antonis wants to re-ignite his career at Western Sydney Wanderers and says coach Tony Popovic was a huge reason why he's returned to where he grew up and played junior football in the city's west.
The fringe Caltex Socceroo has been training with the Wanderers for the last few days after completing his loan move from Greek club PAOK for the rest of the Hyundai A-League season.
And if coach Tony Popovic feels he is ready, the 23-year-old could make his club debut in Friday’s blockbuster clash against City at AAMI Park.
Then the following week it’s an even bigger clash against former club Sydney FC – where he spent six seasons - in the derby.
Antonis – who is excited to be re-uniting with Popovic - admits he needs to build up his fitness but says he feels strong despite struggling for first team opportunities in Greece at PAOK and also on loan at Veria.
“I learned a lot going over there. PAOK is a big club and I played some matches,” Antonis told reporters on Wednesday.
For me it’s great to come back and work with Popa and a great coaching staff, Wanderers are a good club so when the opportunity to come back for five months, I wanted to take it.
“I’ve worked with [Popovic] before [at Sydney FC] but not as a head coach. I’ve learned a lot from him in the past and hopefully in the future I will learn a lot from him as well.
“For me working under him is a great experience, the next five months will be great for me.”
Antonis’ arrival at the Wanderers will add even more spice to next week’s derby at Allianz Stadium.
Along with keeper Vedran Janjetovic, he is one of two ex-Sky Blues to swap Moore Park for Sydney’s west, making 69 Hyundai A-League appearances for Sydney and scoring five goals.
And while Sydney FC played a big part in his development as a professional player, Antonis’ roots are in the west.
“I’m a Bankstown boy, I played for Marconi right through the juniors and my local club was St Christopher’s which is out west,” he said.
“Pretty much all my life I’ve been playing football out west.
“It’s good to be back in Australia again, especially back playing for the Wanderers. It’s a good opportunity for me. I came back and I want to help the boys as much as I can and give to the team."
Wanderers head to Melbourne hanging on to a spot in the top six, despite winning just two of 13 games so far this season.
Eight of those games have ended in draws, including against this week’s opponents City at Spotless Stadium in November.
“I remember we dominated the match [against City] and were unlucky not to take three points,” defender Aritz Borda said.
“That is the past, we look forward and we go there to try and take three points.
The Spaniard added: “I haven’t seen one team stronger than us. We put all teams in trouble and we go there to take three points.”