Five Minutes With… Manny Giannaros

Defender Manny Giannaros may have begun his football education on the streets of his neighbourhood, but it’s been a meteoric rise to the pastures of the NYL since for this young talent.

Defender Manny Giannaros may have begun his football education on the streets of his neighbourhood, but it-s been a meteoric rise to the pastures of the NYL since for this young talent.

Ginannaros-s grounding in the game served him well when he progressed to competitive football.
Playing outside his age group gave him skills and maturity beyond his years, skills that saw him selected for the 2006 Australian schoolboys side.

He didn-t end up making the trip to the Pacific islands with his teammates, instead he found himself on trial at Greek Super League club Skoda Xanthi.

Now plying his trade in the NYL with the Mariners, Giannaros is demonstrating his skills as a defender for the Bluetongue faithful. A physically intimidating defender with the subtle skills of an attacking midfielder Giannaros is a raw package.

The final polished product could well be something very special.

For more information on Manny click here to see his profile

At what age did you begin playing football and what attracted you to the game?
I began playing competitively at eleven years old and prior to that I just played with my friends in the neighbourhood. I just started playing on the streets, then moved to park soccer, graduated to rep level with the Blacktown City Demons and it all just rolled on from there. I always loved the game from a young age.

Did learning the basics of the game on the street help with your transition when you eventually made the step up to club football?
Playing with my friends is something that I believed helped me the most. They were all rep players and were about five or six years older than me. I was always used to playing with guys older and more mature than me. I was only eleven and they were between sixteen and eighteen. That gave me a big wake up call and when I started playing eleven-s with guys my own age, well it was certainly a lot easier. It was a good foundation in the skills of the game and I went on with that. When I was fifteen I was playing the eighteens and when I was sixteen I was playing in the twenty-s and first grade sides. Playing with older players was the most important thing in my career.

What level of representative football have you played?
I-ve represented NSW in the fourteens and sixteens. I made the 2006 Australian Schoolboys team and all the levels that go in to qualify for that team.

How was your experience with the Australian Schoolboys team?
It was a good experience but I didn-t actually end up travelling the team when they went to Samoa. I got picked in the team did all the training and was about to head over with the team when I got asked to trial with a first division side in Greece.

Can you describe your experiences in Greece?
I went to a club called Skoda Xanthi. They play against all the big Greek first division clubs. It was very different shifting from city life to country life. The club I was trialling at was a country club. I found that hard at first and living away from home at sixteen was difficult to begin with but I coped with it pretty well. The main problem for me over there was I suffered a recurrence in a knee injury, which was very disheartening. I only trained with the first team for four or five sessions and played the one game. That was it for me. I was on the plane home and went straight into rehab for my knee. It was a great experience, shame about the injury drama.

What is the most significant difference you have noticed between playing in the NSW Premier League and the National Youth League?
The main difference is probably the intensity of matches. In the Premier League sides won-t press forward for the whole ninety minutes whereas the youth boys being younger and keen to impress will run from start to finish. As a defender in Premier League I-ve noticed that strikers will stand off you occasionally and put pressure on you when they have to or when you-ve made a mistake. That-s the main difference I-ve found. The National Youth League is a very competitive competition, there are no easy matches, especially with the amount of first graders dropping down week in and week out. That lifts the quality of the competition even further.

What teams and players did you admire grow up?
Manchester United was the team I supported but I was always a fan of Roberto Carlos and in recent times Patrice Evra from United.

What would you rate as the greatest strengths of your game?
I would say my ability to go up and down the field overlapping the midfield. I usually play centre back or right back and I like getting forward and helping with the attack and recovering quickly in defence. I work hard on that area at training.

What areas of your game do you feel you need to work on the most?
I had this conversation with Alex Tobin recently, I feel I should be winning a lot more headers in the air than I am at the moment. When the ball gets cleared out of the keeper-s hands I need to win a few more. I-m also concentrating on not giving away as many fouls.

Do you feel defenders peak later than attacking players?
I believe if you-re good enough it doesn-t make a difference how old you are. I-ve seen a lot of young guys who are really good at the beginning of their career and then fade out. For me personally I-ve always believed in hard work and that I-ll get out of it what I put in regardless of age. I was young when I started playing with older guys, age has never been an issue for me and it-s never held me back.

How have you found defending against players with Hyundai A-League experience?
I obviously lift when I get to defend against those strikers. Personally I-ve found I tend to thrive in pressure situations. It-s good for the development of my game and definitely keeps me on my toes.

With the season at its half-way point, how have you found the experience of being involved in the National Youth League?
It-s been good although it-s very different from what I-ve been used to. It took a couple of weeks to get familiar with it because the travel for matches took a bit of getting used to. Waking up early, flying in, lunch, playing and flying home is different to your normal routine for a game but like anything it becomes familiar with practice. It-s a bit different playing with younger players again, you have to approach it differently. When you play with the men in Premier League you can scream and yell at players and it doesn-t bother them, they-re used to it. In the Youth League you have to approach different players differently. We-ve got a couple of 17 year olds in the team and yelling and swearing at them if they make a mistake isn-t going to help their game. Tony and Damien have really focused on us all encouraging each other on the field and to get on with the job. It-s good for me having to make that shift towards playing with younger players again and I-ve adjusted and it-s helped me a lot.

What are your own goals for the remainder of the season?
My short-term goal is to be in the starting eleven consistently. Going with that is to keep my performances consistent week in and week out. Our team goal is to stay on top of the ladder, we-re competitive we want to win the competition and obviously every team doesn-t want to achieve anything less than that. Another aim of mine as a defender and for the team as a whole is to cut out all these stupid goals we-ve been conceding because they are hurting us and costing us points. If each of us can eliminate the errors from our games the team would be better for it. I would also love to win an A-League contract but that comes from consistent performances. Play week in week out and take everything one step at a time, and the rest will hopefully take care of itself.