• Dean Bouzanis in action for Sutton United (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
As the dust settles on a double celebration for Dean Bouzanis, the Australian goalkeeper is poised to commit his immediate future to English Football League newcomers Sutton United.
Dave Lewis

11 Jun 2021 - 6:56 PM  UPDATED 11 Jun 2021 - 6:56 PM

The ex-Melbourne City gloveman was a pillar of defiance as the south London minnows won promotion to the EFL for the first time in their 123-year history - topping the National League table by four points.

Bouzanis - who kept 18 clean sheets in an ever-present 42-game season in English football’s fifth tier - also basked in the reflected glow of City’s maiden A-League Premiers' Plate.

Now, though, his attention has turned to securing his tenure at Gander Green Lane, the humble suburban venue where grandiose dreams were delivered by coach Matt Gray.

“I’m a free agent now but discussions are ongoing with Sutton to stay,” said the former Liverpool junior who has valuable past experience of England’s lower divisions with Carlisle United, Oldham Athletic and Accrington Stanley.

“It’s an unbelievable club - the thing I like about it most is there are a lot of humble people there.

“I’m very happy and enjoyed my season. Hopefully everything gets sorted In the near future and I’ll be in the football league next season with Sutton.”

Bouzanis is convinced the U’s have the core of a squad capable of being competitive next season, but may need to add some extra oomph to challenge for promotion.

“Any time you have success and go up you’re always going to have to strengthen the squad, that’s what you want to do to get to the next level,” he added.

“You always want players fighting for positions but one thing this club has done very well, thanks to the manager, is to already have the nucleus of a good squad in place.

“We have players that have been in the football league before and players that have played at a very high level like Craig Eastmond (who began his career with Arsenal).

“I think with a couple of additions we can have a successful season.”

Sutton famously reached the fifth round of the FA Cup in 2017 before bowing out 2-0 against Arsenal.

And they’ll be looking to follow in the fabled footsteps of teams like AFC Wimbledon, Bournemouth and Wycombe Wanderers, who have leapfrogged up the league from modest beginnings.

“Come pre-season the gaffer will have his goals and targets for next year, and with the players he’s brought in, he’ll sit down and talk about what the plan is moving ahead,” Bouzanis said.

While there are riches to be had if progress continues, Sutton are feeling the short-term pain of having to shell out $900,000 to rip up their artificial surface and install a grass pitch to fulfil EFL regulations.

They are also splashing out on grandstand and floodlights upgrades to bring their home ground up to spec.

“There are big plans and it’s a big project for this club,” Bouzanis added.

“We’re told the new pitch will be ready a few games into the season. It’s great seeing a club like Sutton improve and excel.”

At 30, Bouzanis is just approaching his peak years as a goalkeeper and his ambition to push the boundaries of his talent is unflinching.

“If I look after my body, there’s no reason I can’t play till I’m 38 or 39,” he said. “There are a lot of keepers still playing at that age and there’s still a long way to go in my career I hope.

“I came here and achieved something at Sutton which I’m still pinching myself over.

“As a footballer you always want to improve and play at the highest level you possibly can.

“I have goals to repeat the sort of memories we created this year, and hopefully that will be at Sutton again.

“I’m also so pleased for Melbourne City - they’re fantastic club.

“They built on winning the FFA Cup with the premiership and that’s where they deserve to be… winning titles and championships.”