Full story first published on SBS’ The World Game: https://theworldgame.sbs.com.au/tony-popovic-sacked-by-xanthi-fc
Tony Popovic’s time with Greek Super League 2 club Xanthi FC is already over, with the two parting ways just nine games into the season.
In a statement posted on Xanthi’s website in the early hours of Tuesday morning, the club confirmed it had ended its cooperation with the 47-year-old coach with immediate effect.
Demonstrating the utter ruthlessness of European football, the decision comes despite Popovic guiding the Akrítes to a 2-1 win over OF Ierapetra – a third win in the past four games – on the weekend. They are due to play Panachaiki next Sunday.
Xanthi currently sit fifth on the table of Greece’s second tier but are just four points behind league leaders Ergotelis and have a game in hand over the second, third and fourth-placed teams.
Reports from Greek football observers, however, had suggested discontent was emerging with Xanthi’s style of play before the ousting.
Sunday’s win over bottom-of-the-table lerapetra was the first occasion the side had scored more than two goals in a game.
Popovic had departed Perth Glory for the Xanthi position at the conclusion of their 2019-20 A-League campaign, having won an A-League premiership and secured back-to-back finals campaigns in West Australia.
The Greek club was taken over last year by Sydney Olympic President Bill Papas, who spoke of a desire to turn the club into an outpost for Australian exports seeking a doorway into the crucible that is European football.
The Akrítes were relegated from the Greek Super League last season due to points deductions over irregularities surrounding the previous ownership.
Once there, Popovic was joined on staff by long-time collaborator Zeljko Kalac – who himself left Xanthi three weeks ago – and former Western Sydney Wanderers mentor guru Arthur Diles – whose status is unclear after the announcement of Popovic’s exit.
Former Socceroos Josh Brillante and Matthew Jurman, ex-Adelaide United goalkeeper Paul Izzo, Wellington Phoenix utility Callan Elliot and Popovic’s sons Kristian and Gabriel also signed for Xanthi following the former Western Sydney Wanderers and Glory coach’s arrival.
Popovic’s charge leading this Aussie contingent, however, has now ended.
“I want to thank Tony for the excellent work he has offered to the team since September 2020 when he took office,” Papas said in a statement – which has been translated from Greek to English.
“With great sadness and respect for Tony, we announce the end of our partnership.
“I wish Tony and his family all the best for the future.”