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APOEL Blog: It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint. Thank God!

What a kick in the teeth last weekend was. I know as APOEL fans, our belief in the team sometimes comes across as arrogance, but to believe you can win every game is NOTHING to be ashamed of. It is testament to our long, supremely successful history, that even with the form Anorthosis are in, we could have knocked them off the top. Unfortunately, like in the game with AEK, an early goal just takes the wind out of our sails. We never properly recover, and although we’ve had some dreadful luck in both games, losing to the two teams next to you in the league hurts.

However, I think it’s nice that Anorthosis are keeping our seat warm for us – we were top of the league going into the Christmas break last year, and that didn’t end well. No one can win a league on just half of a good season, and although our title rivals in blue look more menacing than Bane with an Alsation (yes, another Batman reference), they only need to lose once, and that freight-train momentum they have going can be easily derailed

Look at AEK Larnaca – they were on a high after (somehow) beating us at the GSP, but are now seven points off the pace, and down into third. Their fortunes changed within a fortnight, and I believe in the new year, something similar can happen to Anorthosis.

Of course, I’m speaking with more hope than logic, but nothing I have said, or ever will say when addressing APOEL fans, is a lie. If you are currently writing your Christmas wish list, to the mythical man who lives in the Northern, frozen tundra of an Arctic land (Santa, not Ailton Almeida in Russia. Both are top blokes), don’t ask him to put us top of the league over the winter break. It won’t happen.

Anorthosis are an incredibly strong team at the moment; Rezek and Laborde are doing their best Aldo Adorno impressions, and scoring for fun. Paolo Jorge has picked up from where he left off last season as an APOEL player, and is part of a defence that rarely looks like conceding.

In contrast, I always have doubts about our back line. I feel nowhere near as confident predicting a clean sheet as I did last season. With injuries to Christos Karipides, and long term absentee Marcelo Oliveira, we have never got to see our two best centre-backs play a game together.

I respect and just about idolize anyone who puts an APOEL shirt on, but I’m sorry to say, from what I have seen this season, Michael Klukowski and Francisco Zuela have not been what I would call ‘APOEL quality’. Yes, our league is small and relatively unknown, but our European tradition certainly is not. The news that we will be getting an extra Champions League qualifying spot that broke last month shows how much can be done, on such small resources.

However, we have to accept that with a cluster of new players trying to settle into a team, there will be problems at the start. My other team, Nottingham Forest, started this season with a completely different defence to last year, and we are still ironing out a few problems at the back. Perhaps, given time, Klukowski and Zuela will find their feet. No one wants to see them fail, and in the hands of Ivan Jovanovic, they are destined to improve.

As the title suggest, a season of football is a marathon, not a sprint. Despite what I see as our defensive frailties, we have only let seven goals past us, in 13 games. Only three of those have proved costly. If we are this consistent and solid during the first few months of this transitional season, can you imagine how strong we will be near the end of it?

Indeed, Anorthosis have shot out of the blocks like Usain Bolt running to catch the last bus home, but we’re about a third of the way through. It is important to keep pace, pick up the wins against lowlier opposition, and hope that the next time we meet, we are neck and neck, and facing each other in the final hurdle.

All that talk of running has tired me out. But, despite losing two games that were apparently ‘must-win’, we are still in a great position. In fact, I’d say going back after the winter break, we are considered ‘underdogs’ to win the league.

Hmmm… Anyone remember what happened the last time we were completely written off? I’m sure there are a few Frenchmen who remember it well…

Tom Head (322)