Young defender Jonathan Aspropotamitis has been a model of consistency at Wanderland which is one reason why he is December’s nomination for the NAB Young Footballer of the Year Award today.
It’s been somewhat of a meteoric rise from youth football to the first team for the kid born and raised in the heart of enemy territory – Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
He started playing with local club Queens Park before moving on to Sydney University then stints with Parramatta FC, APIA Leichhardt and Sydney Olympic.
But since Aspropotamitis was spotted by then Wanderers youth coach Ian Crook in 2014, he’s now very much part of the first team's plans.
Which is why the 20-year-old’s elevation to the Hyundai A-League over the last couple of years should come as no surprise.
After all, he’s had the luxury of working under a couple of exceptional ex-Socceroo defenders in coach Tony Popovic and assistant Hayden Foxe.
Aspropotamitis credits the pair for honing his game and imparting valuable insight of what it takes to be a defender at the top level.
It’s why it’s no surprise he’s already displaying the poise and maturity normally shown by a seasoned central defender.
Currently mixing his football with a business studies degree at UTS, Aspropotamitis also models his game on other defenders, the likes of Brazilian Thiago Silva, German star Mats Hummels and English young gun John Stones.
“Stones is a very young player like me, and still learning his trade," Aspropotamitis told AAP recently.
"I look up to those guys a lot. I've watched a lot of football, and just taken a lot from a lot of world-class players' games. As I've gotten older, I've tried to put it into my game."
And it’s obviously worked.
Just 24 games into his Hyundai A-League career, Aspropotamitis is now a regular starter under Popovic and has kept Caltex Socceroo Robbie Cornthwaite out of the XI in recent months (though the pair are likely to be in the centre of defence for Saturday night's Sydney Derby).
“Popa” has great faith in the youngster, which is why he didn’t go out and buy another defender when skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley left at the start of the season, in the knowledge Aspro was ready to step up.
He showed his quality last Friday night in a fantastic battle with Tim Cahill.
Aspro got the better of the Caltex Socceroos legend, winning 100% of his duels over the 90 minutes, while he’s currently eighth in the Hyundai A-League for blocked shots.
It’s pretty impressive stuff and why he’s not only a strong contender for this season’s NAB Young Footballer of the Year award but also destined for higher honours.But before any of that there’s the small matter of a Sydney Derby on Saturday night.