6:00am Tuesday 7th January 2014
By Paul Fraser
MIDDLESBROUGH’S Greek goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos finally made his debut at the Riverside Stadium – but he still can’t get away from Hartlepool United.
Konstantopoulos has been back in the North-East since last summer when he returned to England in the hope of sealing a contract after leaving AEK Athens.
Despite being successful at Rockliffe Park, the 35-year-old had to bide his time to make an appearance in a Boro shirt.
He must have feared he would never have got the chance to play before his initial short-term contract comes to an end on January 16.
But he was between the posts for Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Hull City in the FA Cup because loan signing Shay Given was unavailable - and he will be hoping it is not his last.
Konstantopoulos spent four successful years at Hartlepool before joining Coventry City in 2007 and he still looks out for the results of Middlesbrough’s lower league neighbours now.
“My wife is from Hartlepool, so I can't get away from there. Even when I was in Greece, I was still keeping an eye on Hartlepool's results,” said Konstantopoulos.
“It's a place where I spent four good seasons and I really enjoyed myself there. Now that I'm here at Middlesbrough, I suppose I keep an even closer eye on what's going on just up the road.”
He was linked with a return to Hartlepool, but for now he remains a Middlesbrough player and his contract is due to end this month.
Having got his opportunity to play under Aitor Karanka at the weekend, the one-cap Greece international is determined to keep pushing to impress the Spaniard.
Konstantopoulos said: “That's the goalkeeping position. At times you have to be patient, and you just have to work hard and show what you can do on the training ground.
“If you do that, hopefully you'll impress the manager and he'll give you a chance. That's all you can do. I've been in this situation before, but I've also been playing and somebody else has been going through it.
“I was trying to look after myself and give my best in training, and hopefully wait for a chance, which I have got.”
The frustrating thing for Konstantopoulos was that his one and only outing for Middlesbrough so far ended in frustration. He had to pick the ball out of his net after goals from Aaron McLean and Nick Proschwitz.
He said: “Our aim was to win the match. That was how we started the game, to go for it. But I don't think the game went for us from the beginning.
“Hull got the lucky breaks when they needed them, especially with the first goal. It was a shot, and the ball landed at the lad's feet. That probably set them off, but we tried and we kept fighting to the last minute.
“Even in injury time, we were still trying to put the ball in the box and create chances. That shows the commitment from the boys, even though we are finishing off two hard weeks with a lot of games.”
Karanka is pressing ahead in his attempts to strengthen and he is expected to conclude the loan signing of Chelsea youngster Kenneth Omeruo today.
Talks are already believed to have been fruitful and the 20-year-old defender could even train with the squad today after yesterday’s day off.
There is likely to be further signings in the remaining weeks of the transfer window as Karanka looks to boost his side’s chances of closing the six point gap to the play-offs.
Konstantopoulos, likely to make way for Given at Blackpool this Saturday, said: “We know we've got a good team, but this league is so open that anyone can make a major move with a few wins in a row.
“If you lose a few games in a row, you can be back down there. It's just a matter of trying to be consistent and carrying on doing what we have been doing in the last few games. If we do that, we will pick up more points.”
One player likely to leave is Belgian Faris Haroun. The Northern Echo revealed on Saturday that Zulte Waregem are interested in taking him back across the North Sea.
Middlesbrough have not received any firm offers so far, but Haroun’s father, Mahamat, said: “Zulte Waregem is a very good option. He wants to play in the Belgian top six and they would be an ideal team.
“My son is still in England but he might be available soon. He could join the team for their winter training camp in Spain.”
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