TEN years on from appearing in his previous play-off final, Middlesbrough keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos accepts the expectation levels are somewhat higher this time around.
The 36-year-old will join the select band of Greeks to line up at Wembley on Monday in Boro’s Championship play-off final with Norwich City, with the prize for the winners being the Premier League and a £120m jackpot.
Almost a decade to the day, Konstantopoulos was part of the Hartlepool side beaten 4-2 after extra-time in their League One showpiece against Sheffield Wednesday in Cardiff.
Then, Pools were massive underdogs against the Owls, who had all the expectation on their shoulders, although the pressure will be shared this time around.
Konstantopoulos, a revelation for Boro this term, said: “We went into the game with everything to gain and nothing to lose and we gave it a good go and it didn’t pay off in the end.
“This is a different situation. Middlesbrough is a massive club and the expectation is to go and win the game regardless of who is against us.”
Konstantopoulos drew upon his experience after an error in the semi-final first-leg at Brentford to provide a faultless display in the Riverside return and says cool heads will be vital against the Canaries – in Boro’s biggest game since the 2006 Uefa Cup final.
The keeper added: “The thing you learn from football is that if you make a mistake, if you try and overdo it to make amends, you make another mistake.
“It was about keeping calm and playing the game and the experience I have got helped.
“We have enough experienced players to control the game and situation and to make sure we are 100 per cent ready and prepared to win the game.”
Konstantopoulos is enjoying an Indian summer at Boro, with his previous experiences in England decidedly mixed.
Well into his mid-thirties, the Thessalonika-born stopper is in the form of his career after many nomadic years at home and abroad and admits he has found a home from home on Teesside.
He said: “Football is a strange sport. Things can change so rapidly and for me since I came back to England, I have changed and got better all the time.
“I love the area and people here and it feels like home.”