Heidelberg hoping to put sad week in the past
HEIDELBERG United coach George Katsakis will draw inspiration from his toughest week to motivate his team for Wednesday night's FFA Cup quarter-final.
The Victorian National Premier League team face Adelaide United, their second A-League FFA Cup opponent this year, at the Olympic Village.
The game is sandwiched between last Sunday's NPLV grand final and this Sunday's national playoff away to WA side Bayswater.
Rocking the close-knit club to its core however was the sudden passing of Heidelberg director Peter Lukakis, 51, on the morning of the grand final.
Lukakis was at the ground on Saturday night preparing the club and soaking up the atmosphere ahead of the grand final with Bentleigh Greens, before suffering a cardiac arrest on Sunday morning.
Katsakis, a club legend having played for and now coached Heidelberg for 10 years, said Lukakis' contribution in the re-emergence of the former NSL club would be honoured.
"When I returned to the club in 2007 it was very vulnerable, times were tough. We started to change the mentality," Katsakis said.
"People usually focus on what's happening on the pitch and the contribution that people like Peter, who was a director for 12 years and a lifelong fan, make off the field in building the culture is enormous and underrated.
"The last few years, since induction of NPL, we have been competitive at all levels and we're respected nationwide. That's something I'll use tomorrow as part of that.
"It's been a massive season for the boys, for the club and Sunday was the hardest pre-game talk I've ever made.
"We're a chance. We took the game to Perth Glory, so there's nothing to suggest we can't do it again. I've seen funnier things happen.''
Star visa player Harry Noon has been declared fit despite lasting just 65 minutes on Sunday, but former Victory defender Steven Pace (calf) has been ruled out.
The Bergers will make several changes for the game which comes just 72 hours after the gruelling 120-minute 2-1 grand final loss to Bentleigh, with super subs Alex Schiavo, Michael Trigger and Andrew Cartanos coming into first XI contention.
"My only concern is that we are tired and coming off Sunday. If we won the grand final, we would still be in the same position," he said.
"We will make some changes. It will be a test, but it's more about preparing them mentally, not just physically.
"We've just done recovery and watched Adelaide United videos, just try to get them into the right mindset."