Stelios Giannakopoulos spent five years at Bolton Wanderers and earned a fantastic relationship with the supporters due to his performances on the pitch and being part of a successful team that qualified for European football, finishing in the upper echelons of the glittering Premier League.
A national hero in Greece for being an integral part of a team that won the European Championships in 2004 against all the odds, Stelios spoke on the Here We Go Again podcast about the difficulties of having to leave Bolton when his intentions were to stay and potentially see out the remainder of his career in BL6.
‘It was a very painful situation having to leave Bolton. It was painful because I never wanted to leave the club. It was never my intention to leave the club even though I wasn’t playing regularly in my last season.’
‘Whatever the reason was that meant I wasn’t playing – I didn’t mind, I was a professional. My focus and my everyday professionalism was there from day one until the last day of my contract.
Even though I was not playing a lot, when I was asked by the manager to play not only did I play, but I scored decisive goals to keep the club in the Premier League.’
‘I think even this didn’t lead to a good evaluation from the manager, and I didn’t continue playing for the club I love. I never wanted to leave the club but in football in and in life you don’t always have things how you planned them.
‘Life is difficult and so is football. You need to accept how life comes and you need to adapt to the new reality. I had to adapt and realise that my time at the club had come to an end even though I didn’t want it to. I then had to plan my next move.
‘I had a couple of injuries that set me back when I moved to Hull. The moment I was ready to play in the first team, I picked up another slight injury which set me back again.
‘The way football is, I’m very superstitious. I told myself something was not there and something was not adding up for me whilst I was at Hull, so I felt that I needed a change and had to find something different with a different approach.
‘I wanted to stay in England after leaving Bolton, but because I couldn’t ultimately find what I wanted I moved back to Greece and signed for Larissa for one year. That was the last year of my career as a player.
‘My original plan was to finish my career either with Bolton or Olympiacos. The two clubs are the big loves in my career – I played for Olympiacos for seven years and I played for Bolton for five years. That is a total of twelve years’ worth of brilliant football and brilliant moments.
‘I had a fantastic bond with the fans of both teams. I still get the love from Olympiacos fans all the time because I live here in Greece and when I visit Bolton I get the love from Bolton fans all the time as well. My dream was to finish my career with either one of the clubs, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. That’s football.
‘The only regret I have from my career is that I left England to go back to Greece. I had a couple of very good financial proposals to go and play in the Championship with either Sheffield United or Leeds, but maybe I was too arrogant. I didn’t want to play Championship football, I wanted to play in the top league.
‘I went to Larissa and achieved European qualification with them – in this situation I valued my pleasure as a footballer more than my pocket; I thought more with emotion than my financial bank statement should I say.'
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