Western Sydney Wanderers defender Jonathan Aspropotamitis shares with the PFA his swift journey from NPL youth football to the A-League and how he has embraced the challenge of becoming a first team regular.

“My focus has always been on what I can control and on doing my best,” replies Wanderers defender Jonathan Aspropotamitis when asked about how he has coped with the demands of professional football. “I know that if I prepare 100 per cent right during the week I have nothing to worry about on the weekend.”

This approach has seen the young defender make a seamless transition from the NPL Youth League to established A-League player and not miss a beat along the way despite the considerable challenges thrown his way.

Having enjoyed a breakout 2016/17 season, where the former Sydney Olympic player became regular for the Wanderers in the Asian Champions League and A-League the defender says his focus has remained the same regardless of what has been put in front of him.

“When I haven’t been picked or I have missed out on starting it never made me hungrier or work harder, I have always been working as hard as possible preparing my best to be ready if I did play.” It is an approach that has impressed all at the club and was identified when he signed his professional contract, with CEO John Tsatsimas stating at the time: “Jonathan has impressed everyone at the club with his attitude and application since bursting onto the scene this year.”

Tsatsimas has not been the only one impressed by his attitude and application. When the club began their gruelling pre-season ahead of last season the supremely fit Scott Neville found he had a new running partner for the tough conditioning sessions.

“He decided to come with me for every running drill we’d do,” said Neville. “He wouldn’t try and hide or just get it done, he tried to test himself and keep up. Nobody pushed him to do it,” Neville said. “His attitude is going to take him a long way, as well as his ability, obviously.”

This desire would propel Aspropotamitis into Tony Popovic’s first 11 for the majority of the season, with the 20-year-old keeping more experienced players out of the team as he excelled.

“It was disappointing not to be part of that first game a Sydney derby in front of a record crowd, but the coach could only pick 11 players and there were 20 of us fighting for spots. I was thankful to get the opportunity to start in the next game against Adelaide and I got a good run in the team after that.”

He would go on to make 24 A-League and four Asian Champions League appearances along with appearing in his first finals series match, but it was the opportunity to play in the crucial high pressure games such as the Sydney derby and finals series matches that he said he felt had most improved his game.

“It is great to get the exposure this year to some really big games like playing in the ACL away from home, playing in the Sydney derby and playing in a finals series match. These games are high pressure and things are on the line and you learn so much. I feel if we can expose more young kids in the A-League to high pressure games then that is really going to benefit the game.

“We went into the ACL with high expectations. We expected to be in the top two. The step-up was an eye opener for us – we were playing against guys that were internationals and had recently been playing in the Premier League and other top leagues.”

With his eyes now cast onto next season and possible Olyroos commitments, Aspropotamitis’ focus will remain the same – improvement everyday – and the journey from the NPL to the A-League is likely to be just part of the story.