This is the fourth of five articles charting the remarkable inside story of Ange Postecoglou's little-heralded first spell in European football with Panachaiki in Greece.

TENSIONS in Greece were already running high towards the end of 2008 due to fears over the global economic crisis and rising unemployment levels as well as a widespread unhappiness about the corruption and dysfunctionality of state institutions.

But when Alexandros Grigoropoulos, a 15-year-old student, was shot and killed by two police officers in the Exarcheia district of central Athens one evening in early December it tipped a large section of the population over the edge.

Mass demonstrations in the capital quickly escalated into full-scale riots – protesters trashed property and threw missiles and Molotov cocktails at police during ugly skirmishes - and the unrest soon spread to other major towns and cities across the country. 

The trouble in the streets, however, did not stop lawyer Alexis Kougias from making some outlandish and unsubstantiated claims about both the tragic incident and the dead boy when he represented the officers in court days later.

The Herald:

Kougias, who had been involved in the trials of many notorious criminals and even terrorist organisations during his career, stated that ballistic tests showed the bullet had been fired as a warning and ricocheted and alleged the victim had been demonstrating “deviant behaviour”. The remarks provoked an outcry.

READ PART 1 HEREInside Ange Postecoglou's dramatic spell in Greece

They were subsequently proved to be “completely inaccurate” and the Athens Bar Association initiated disciplinary proceedings.

So when Kougias - who had played football for Olympiakos Loutraki, Iraklis Thessaloniki and Pelops Kiato as a young man, had once been called up into the Greek national squad and had previously been president of AEK Athens - took control at Panachaiki shortly afterwards it was never going to be accepted by their supporters.

Or, for that matter, work out well for their manager Ange Postecoglou.

Sure enough, the social upheaval and violent scenes that had flared across Greece soon erupted in Patras. 

“There were a few crazy moments at Panachaiki,” said Postecoglou’s then assistant Peter Cklamovski. “One in particular comes to mind. Towards the end of the journey, we had finished our training session at the stadium one afternoon. The change of ownership was announced on the radio and it emerged that the new owner was coming in to the club to do a press conference.

“By the time he arrived, there was mayhem, total mayhem, in Patras. There were riots. Shop windows were smashed in, bins were set on fire, bus stops were set on fire, cars were turned over and set on fire. The riot police were called in to restore order.

The Herald:

“We had to be locked in the stadium for our own safety. We were locked in for hours. We couldn’t get out. The supporters were blocking the stadium to prevent the new owner from coming in and we couldn’t get out. We were stuck.

“He eventually managed to get in to the stadium and the press conference happened. Everyone was listening to it on the radio because we were trapped. But we could hear that it was going wild outside. It was mayhem, crazy.

“I could just hear a lot of noise. I was thinking: ‘F***! What’s going on?’ So I tried to have a look outside. I opened the door, stuck my head outside and instantly got whacked with a huge cloud of tear gas that got into my eyes. The police were trying to stop all the rioters from scaling the fence and coming in to the stadium.” 

Postecoglou - who had been brought in by his fellow Greek-Australian Con Makris, a multi-millionaire property developer, 10 months earlier - had worked wonders that season and hopes were high Panachaiki could win the Southern Group of the Gamma Ethniki and promotion.

But all had not been well for some time before Kougias suddenly appeared on the scene and sparked chaos. Cklamovski witnessed how his friend and long-term associate helped to hold the entire club together off the pitch, not just keep the team winning on the park, during that unsettling period.

READ PART 2 HEREPostecoglou in Greece: 'Culture shock' over intense methods and clueless owner

“There was probably a three or four month spell where players and staff weren’t paid,” he said. “I think that sometimes happens in Europe when a club runs into financial difficulties. But this was something that was right in front of us. These people relied on the money to feed their families. It wasn’t a nice predicament to be in.

“But the way Ange managed through that, the way he kept everyone together as a family and working for the common cause, working for the club who aren’t paying them, was remarkable. I was amazed at what he did. 

The Herald:

“That can shake an environment, that can rattle a whole club. Things can fall away pretty quickly when those sort of things are happening, from an individual perspective, a team perspective, a club perspective. But he had everyone together and eating out of his hand. It was an amazing piece of work. Kudos to him.

“What was going on off the field was part of the challenge of being at the club. But we were still managing to make progress every day with our football. We were flying.”

There are numerous accounts of why Postecoglou chose to end his time at Panachaiki. One frequently-repeated tale is that he walked after the new owner sent a note into the dressing room at half-time in a match outlining the changes that he wanted made. Cklamovski is reluctant to expand on the exact details 15 years on.

But asked if the reports of boardroom interference are true, he said: “Yeah, perhaps mate. Let’s put it this way, it wouldn’t get much attention. Ange was never going to listen to anyone who tells him what he should do with his team like that or what they should be trying to do on the pitch.

“That is just a bit of useless noise that no manager needs. But that is something that Ange could handle quite easily, it didn’t distract him.”

Postecoglou, though, could see that there was no prospect of him working under such a contentious and interfering character. He quickly took affirmative action. “It was Ange who really made the decision that it was time to go,” said Cklamovski. “As soon as he said that, I followed him without any hesitation.

“New ownership took over. That was the catalyst of the decision. It is fair to say there was a change of direction and control. Ange was pretty sharp in his decision. He said what he wanted to. I said: ‘Mate, it’s up to you’. He said: ‘We’re going’. I said: ‘Well, let’s do it’.

The Herald:

“We kept it really quiet. That was on a Tuesday. We finished the preparations for the weekend game. We played the game against Egaleo on the Sunday. I can still remember the game. It was 0-0 until late on and then in the last 10 minutes, bang, bang, we scored two goals and won 2-0. Scoring late in the game was a bit of a trend of ours at Panachaiki.

“After the game, Ange locked the doors in the changing room and notified all of the players that it was his last game in charge. He went in to his press conference and said his goodbyes. The owner didn’t really know too much about it. That was it, we were done. We left like gentlemen.”

READ PART 3 HERE: Postecoglou in Greece: How a Dundee icon and Ange beat dirty tactics and ropey refs

During his final post-match interview, Postecoglou said: “It was my last match as coach of Panachaiki and the reasons are many. I believe that the relations that a coach should have with the management should be the best and there should be trust between the two sides. I had agreed with Mr. Makris to be the boss, but that has changed now.”

It was a bitter disappointment to both Postecoglou and Cklamovski given the progress they had made and the achievement they were on the brink of as well as all of those – the players, the staff and the fans - who they had given so much hope and support to during their tenure. 

Petros Stathakis, a United States-born English-speaking Greek who had been brought in by Markis earlier that season to work as “team manager”, oversee daily operations and be the link between the football department and the directors, has nothing but positive things to say about Postecoglou now.

He was upset when the manager suddenly departed but could fully understand his reasons for going.

“I worked with Ange for three months,” said Stathakis. “Ange is a great guy. He was very good for me. And I would like to think that I was for him too. I hope that I helped out a little bit.

“Everybody loved him. He was a big personality for the whole club. He had perfect communication with the team, the employees, his assistants, everyone. He had a great connection with the fans as well. He revelled in the passion that people had in the club.

“On top of all that, his team played nice football. Training was fantastic, very interesting. He was hard working. He spent a lot of time both in his office and on the training field.

“He was fair with everybody. It didn’t matter what age a player was or how much money a player earned, the best players played. He had good players for the level of the club. All of the players loved him. You know how it is. If players don’t play they complain. But it was never anything major. He had good discipline.

The Herald:

“At that point, Panachaiki shouldn’t have had any problems. The owner (Markis) was one of the richest Greek-Australians in the world. He invested a lot of money and he was friends with Ange. He brought Ange to the club to upgrade the level of everything.

“Ange definitely succeeded in doing that. He would have been more successful, but just before Christmas the owner brought in a partner. That was a rocky situation and Ange quit. Looking back, I think he probably did the right thing.

“Something happened in the first game when the new partner was there, but I am not sure 100 per cent what it was. To be honest, I didn’t witness it. But I remember Ange going crazy a little bit. When the referee whistled for the end of the game he quit.

“Listen, it was a weird situation. It wasn’t just the team it affected. The partner was a wealthy, big shot lawyer in Greece. He had been around soccer teams all of his life. But two weeks before he represented those two police officers.

“There were demonstrations from supporters in the stadium because of it. It was a very tense situation at that time. It was very tough. It wasn’t just supporters expressing their unhappiness at the team, it had a political dimension to it.

“It wouldn’t have happened in Australia. There were fights in the streets outside the stadium. It wasn’t an easy time. It was nothing to do with results, nothing to do with Ange Postecoglou. It came out of nowhere as well. He probably did the right thing by quitting.”

Stathakis, who is now back at Panachaiki after several years away and is part of a consortium of businessmen who own the club, was surprised that one of the major Greek clubs, AEK Athens, Panathinaikos or Olympiacos, did not move for Postecoglou. 

“For me, Panachaiki missed a big opportunity by letting Ange leave,” he said. “I don’t understand why nobody from the big Greek clubs reached out to him and asked him to go and coach there. I am connected with one of them and a couple of times I mentioned his name to them. I don’t understand why nobody acted.”

But Ange Postecoglou was reenergised by his time in his homeland and would go on to use the lessons he learned at Panachaiki to take his managerial career to a new level in the years which followed.

The story of Ange Postecoglou's dramatic spell in Greece concludes tomorrow.