My Favourite Player: Stelios

Bolton Wanderers fan Anna Duggal explains her love for bald Greek winger Stelios Giannakopoulos. – by Anna Duggal

Yesterday was the 36th birthday of my all-time favourite footballer, Stylianos Giannakopoulos – also known as Stelios. As a Bolton Wanderers fan since I was little, he’s my favourite and most memorable player – not just because of my liking of bald men, but because of his success and skills in his field… literally.

Stelios became a cult hero during his time at the Reebok Stadium. Photo: corky100 via Flickr

The son of a top division Greek footballer, Stelios joined his first club at just seven-years-old, before making his professional debut for Ethnikos Asteras in 1991 and then working his way up through the Greek leagues. This was until 2003 when he made the wise decision to befriend Big Sam and cross the channel to England. He made his debut against Manchester United, and helped the team to the final of the League Cup at the end of his first season.

The next season he was Bolton’s top scorer, but his form dipped in the years which followed, due to injury and surgery for a hernia, which was unfortunate. Throughout this time, though, he still played regularly, appearing in 28 games in the 2006/07 season.

Stelios’ greatest and most memorable moment for Bolton came on April 26th, 2008. Sam Allardyce had not long left, and with Gary Megson struggling to keep charge, the team had plunged to the bottom of the table. Goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskeleinan was out for the rest of the season, and a match against Tottenham Hotspur was vitally important to Bolton’s Premiership survival, with Spurs being tipped to win.

A blog in the run-up to the match claimed that Stelios was an “industrious midfielder, who has the happy knack of popping up in the right place to score important goals.” And Stelios did just that. Sent on for the second half, within 47 seconds he had scored to put Bolton in front. Steed Malbranque equalised for Spurs, but Bolton held on, with a point helping them narrowly avoid relegation.

The following season Stelios was dropped by the team and tried to stay afloat for another year in England by joining Hull City. After only three appearances for the Tigers, he was extrememly frustrated and took the decision to move on from English football and back to his roots in Greece, where after being known by just one name during his time in England, he readopted his surname.

After hanging up his boots for good in 2009, Stelios is now the president of the Greek Professional Footballers Association. He may only have been with Bolton Wanderers for a quarter of my life, but he will always be one of their most memorable players for me, and one of the reasons I stand by my team.

– Anna Duggal is an English student at the University of Lincoln.

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