It’s the first instalment in a brand new series titled ‘Once A Rover’, in which we detail the career of those players to have played for Rovers’ youth teams, but never got the chance to represent the first team in a senior league fixture.
We all know the players to have come through the setup at Brockhall to go and play for the first team – you only have to look at the current senior side to see the likes of Lewis Travis and Darragh Lenihan – but what about those that don’t make it into the Rovers first team?
We’ll aim to cover as many players as we can, from those who played for one year to those who played through the age ranges, so let’s get into it.
Today, it’s Nikolaos Giannakopoulous under the spotlight – credit to you if the name rings a bell!
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Born in Greece in February 1993, Giannakopoulos started his career in the youth setup of Asteras Tripolis in his home country, until an English Premier League club called Blackburn Rovers came calling in 2009.
Sam Allardyce took the Greek ‘keeper on trial with the club in May of that year, and he did enough to impress, signing a contract with Rovers.
It was a £52,000 fee that saw Giannakopoulous complete his move to Rovers, and although it wasn’t headline news for Allardyce’s side, it was a big move for the 16-year-old Nikolaos.
Speaking of his move, he said: “I know that my life will change. I feel ready to realise my dream playing for Rovers.
“I will try my best to show my quality and stay many years in England. The people of Blackburn showed me how much they trust me and they told me that I have the credentials to succeed. They told me that with hard work I will have the chance to play at the first team very soon
However, Nikolaos’ English dream lasted just a year, as he made the switch to Udinese Calcio in 2010, lasting two years in Italy before returning to his home country with Panionios in 2012.
He became a regular in the Panionios side in early 2013, and despite dropping in and out of the team, he developed a small reputation for himself and made the move to Greek giants Panathinaikos in July 2015.
However, he made just one appearance for ‘The Greens’, heading out on loan to Aris Limassol in the 2016-17 season before completing a permanent switch to Kerkyra in the following summer.
After a year at Kerkyra, Giannakopoulous made the move to Panetolikos in 2018. However, he struggled to make the breakthrough at the Greek Super League side, and he moved to fellow Super League side Apollon Smyrnis at the beginning of this season, but he is yet to make a league appearance, leaving us on this current day.
It was an obscure choice to kick off this series, but there will be plenty of those in the following weeks and months!
New installments will be released at least once a week as we aim to cover a range of players, including those who went on to have very successful careers.
Follow our account dedicated to all the ongoings in the Rovers Academy on Twitter: @academy_rovers.
We’ll post all these articles on there as well as coverage of the U23 and U18 sides, so make sure you give us a follow.
We are hosting a special live stream on Tuesday 27 July to raise some much needed funds for our charity partner 'Sporting Minds UK', who provide much needed mental health support for sportspeople.
There are plenty of prizes up for grabs, including a signed pair of boots from Elliott Bennett and signed shirts from John Buckley and Joe Rothwell.
To donate, please visit rcdonate.com and give whatever you can to help support this wonderful cause. Thank you.