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Gwelup Croatia coach Taki Nicolaidis

Taki ready to taste title glory at last

Football West News

Gwelup Croatia need just avoid defeat on Saturday to lift the State League Division One title and claim promotion to the NPL WA.

Even if they lose at home to Subiaco, Gwelup will still win the league unless second-place Western Knights defeat UWA Nedlands and bring about a six-goal swing on the league leaders.

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But history tells Gwelup head coach Taki Nicolaidis to take nothing for granted.

“We are so near yet so far at the moment,” Nicolaidis told Football West.

“Obviously I would rather still be in our position than Western Knights’ position and holding the cards in our hands. But I’ve been around long enough to expect the unexpected – you only have to look at Liverpool and Barcelona earlier this year, or even go back to the Perth Glory and Wollongong grand final.”

Should Gwelup avoid a banana skin and replace Stirling Lions in the NPL then it will also be a monkey off the back for Nicolaidis.

“I have had enough of being the bridesmaid,” he said.

“Three out of the last four times I’ve been involved on the final day and come second. Last year we lost a cup final and were pipped by Rockingham on the last day.

“So if we do win the league and we do go up it will be great for the playing group who stayed with us.”

While Gwelup and Rockingham went blow for blow last year, halfway through the season Nicolaidis and his players were made aware that they would not be able to take their place in the NPL even if they took the title. This year the club has left no stone unturned, ensuring they are fully compliant.

“Credit must go to the club who have made sure they’ve ticked every box and from our point of view we’ve had to do our bit on the pitch,” he said.

“The league this year is a lot stronger. Last year it was just us and Rockingham but up to four rounds ago this year we had five teams who were battling to win it.”

Now it is down to either Gwelup or Knights, two teams with strong Croatian roots. There is a natural rivalry between them.

“Yes, there’s a friendly rivalry between us. They don’t want to see us go up and we don’t want to see them them go up,” Nicolaidis said.

“But it has been good for both of us. Knights pushing us has made us lift our game and has spurred us on.

“I’ve been lucky enough to win a league as an assistant coach and an Under 20s, but not as a senior coach. You can be fortunate and win a Night Series or a cup but winning the league is the ultimate.

“It would mean the absolute world.”