THE man who gave Dimi Konstantopoulos his breakthrough in English football says that his qualities warrant a stint in the Premier League.
Middlesbrough’s number one shot-stopper Dimi Konstantopoulos will mind Boro’s net on Monday during the Championship play-off final against Norwich.
I’ve watched a lot of Boro’s games on TV and he’s been excellentNeale Cooper
Twelve years ago the giant Greek relocated from warmer European climes to England with the aspiration of finding a club willing to give him an opportunity.
After approaching a series of clubs, Hartlepool United’s then manager Neale Cooper was so impressed by the keeper, later to be capped once by his national side, that “signing him was a no brainer”.
Konstantopoulos had to be patient at first, occupying the role of understudy to Jim Provett, but when his chance came he seized it.
For Cooper, top-flight football is merited: “I’ve watched quite a lot of Boro’s games when they’ve been on TV and he’s been excellent.
“He certainly deserves a wee go in the Premier League, at the very least.
“The sheer size of him made it is easy to tell quickly what a fantastic goalkeeper he was.
“He has always had those important attributes – size, mobile and a fantastic kicker of the ball. He had everything. A great keeper.”
Recruited to the Riverside from AEK Athens in 2013 as the initial third-choice net-minder, Dimi has worked his way up the hierarchical ladder and made the Boro goalkeeping jersey his undisputed own with 21 clean sheets this campaign.
Language difficulties were a problem upon his first arrival in the North-East but it never hindered the goalkeeper-defence relationship.
“His language was an issue but he overcame that relatively quickly,” Cooper, speaking to SportMail, added.
“Communication is so important but his defence had faith in him. They felt comfortable playing with him.
“Lots of goalies make mistakes at every level and they get magnified as huge issues because no one can cover up a goalkeeper’s mistakes. Dimi makes superb saves, however.”
And as for the undesirable moniker, Cooper explains its origin: “He looked like a monster so we called him Chewbacca off Star Wars.
“It was only a joke initially but it stuck and that was what everyone called him afterwards.
“Whatever problem he had understanding the boys at first he certainly understood what Chewbacca was!”