Panny’s ready to go

While the Central Coast Mariners’ National Youth League side has kicked off its second campaign with a thrilling 1-all draw with Adelaide United at Hindmarsh Stadium, one player missing from the opening round clash was new skipper Panny Nikas.

While the Central Coast Mariners- National Youth League side has kicked off its second campaign with a thrilling 1-all draw with Adelaide United at Hindmarsh Stadium, one player missing from the opening round clash was new skipper Panny Nikas.

Nikas missed the trip to Adelaide to remain in Sydney, and on duty with Sutherland Football Club in the NSW Premier League grand final.

Taking his place in the NSW Premier League decider was a huge thrill for Nikas, who went on to score the final goal in Sutherland-s 4-1 victory over the Marconi Stallions.

The talented central midfielder is an incredibly ambitious and driven leader, characteristics which will benefit the young Central Coast side when he makes his first appearance for the season, this Saturday against Gold Coast United.

"My main goal for the season is to be successful with the youth team. If we play to our potential there is no reason why we can-t be competitive and aim to win the league," said Nikas.

"Individually I want to develop as a player and learn as much as I can from the positive influences around me and potentially challenge for a position in the first team.

"Long term I would love to earn an A-League contract," Nikas said.

The winter season has been successful for the 21 year old, scoring 14 goals on the way to helping Sutherland to grand final glory and scoring a further 7 in the Tiger Turf competition.

It is this form that youth coach Tony Walmsley is hoping his captain will bring to Bluetongue Stadium.

"Panny brings all the right qualities to give him a real chance to play professional football," Walmsley said.

"He has sound technique, discipline and a terrific work ethic.

"In the short term we look forward to welcoming him to lead our team for the visit of Gold Coast United where we hope to build on a promising start in Adelaide," said Walmsley.

Nikas- love of football began at an early age and he cut his teeth, literally, playing for his junior club San Souci.

"My nickname is Mavro Thondi, which in Greek means black tooth as one of my teeth is slightly black from getting hit," Nikas said.

What attracted him to the game initially was the thrill of playing sport with his mates and like any youngster he enjoyed watching the foreign leagues.

"As a kid growing up I supported Arsenal and the player I most enjoyed watching was Zinedine Zidane," Nikas said.

The advice which Nikas believed has helped him the most as he begins his journey in the National Youth League is simple but effective.

"You need to take small steps to achieve your goal and always be sacrificing something," said Nikas.

Asked to reflect on advice to pass on to young players Nikas offers:

"Constantly work hard on your game, both negatives and positives & always remain focused on achieving your goals," Nikas said.

Nikas shows maturity beyond his years and is ideally placed as captain to influence those around him as the young Mariners work towards a successful season.

The Mariners' NYL team's first home match of the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season will be against Gold Coast United on Saturday, 19 September. Kick-off is at 4:45pm. Tickets for this match are available online here or by phoning 132 849.

Mariners Memberships for the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season are now available online by clicking here or by phoning 1300 767 442.