Newcastle Jets defender Johnny Koutroumbis is keeping his mind firmly on securing finals football with the side after what has been an incredible period in his life.

Koutroumbis, who joined Evenings on FNR, was diagnosed with stage one thyroid cancer in October last year, and after completing his rehabilitation has returned to the pitch for Ernie Merrick’s side.

The 20-year-old told FNR of the difficulty that he faced when receiving the news both mentally and physically, and how he maintained strong in his faith.

“When I did get the news it was very shocking, as it would be for anyone,” Koutroumbis said.

“A lot goes through your head. As it is a mental thing, it is a physical thing as well,

“I’ve been brought up with, obviously a Greek background…and I’ve had grandparents and my parents believe in Greek orthodox,

“I just felt like these things happen for a reason and God is always there to protect us and guide us.”

Koutroumbis also outlined how the support from the club supported him and aided the process of recovery and returning to training with his teammates.

“The club has been brilliant about it, I couldn’t thank the staff members and the club even more,

“While I was in hospital I was speaking to Laurie (McKinna) and he reassured me that at that time I shouldn’t have to worry about football because he said that ‘we’re going to talk to you about a contract.’”

After a big win over the Western Sydney Wanderers last time out, Newcastle are turning their attention to an assault on the top six.

With nine games remaining in the home and away season in the A-League, Koutroumbis stressed that the squad is driven in its search for a place in the top six.

“I really think the boys want to get in the finals. We need to play finals football.”

With a potentially season-defining game against the Wellington Phoenix on Friday night at McDonald Jones Stadium, Koutroumbis remained coy in over playing the importance of the match.

“We just like to think it’s another game, it’s a must win game obviously we’d like the three points at home,” Koutroumbis said.

“You can say it’s an important game but we don’t really want to think about it too much as there’s still a lot of games in the season.”

Nick Hughes