365 “Thank You’s” to Ouzounidis

What To Expect From New Look 2018 Panathinaikos

AGONAsports’ Nick Tsambouniaris talks about Ouzounidis 365 days in charge of Panathinaikos and congratulates the Greek manager for his priceless contributions to the club.

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Marinos Ouzounidis has navigated a rocky 365 days to reach his one year anniversary as manager of Panathinaikos. The man that replaced the largely unpopular Andrea Stramaccioni was originally brought in as he knew the Trifili well and what the club stood for. As it is now, the club was in a state of turmoil but more in terms of on-field results where last place in their UEFA Europa League group was a formality. This was in addition to an array of embarrassing league losses and an almost embarrassing cup exit.

The former Panathinaikos player inherited a squad largely made up of foreigners who simply did not care about the club, but as time has progressed it is there for all to see the effect his tenure has had on the playing squad. From his first game in charged against PAOK at Leoforos which resulted in a 1-0 win, the mentality of the team changed and so too did the matchday squads as fans saw the introduction of youth, along with more of a Greek presence.

One can not underestimate what the man has had to endure in arguably the most turbulent 365 days any manager in world football would ever see. It takes a strong and bold character to deal with all the off-field issues such as enforced changes to the roster due to economic reasons. Not many other managers would have stayed after key players such as Zeca, Berg, M’Poku and Klonaridis were all allowed to depart. This was on top of technical director Nikos Lymberopoulos also leaving and most significantly Giannis Alafouzos announcing he would no longer contribute any funds to the club. That in itself alone would be enough to scare even the most established and optimistic managers out there and it is possible “we” as outsiders who are not privy to every detail only know a small portion of what he has had to face. When you start letting all of that sink in it is incredible as to how he has stayed and been willing to ride the lows.

One year on and the club finds itself without a major shareholder as well as heading into the foreseeable future without an investor. It is hardly any better reading in terms of on-field action but the fact that a club the size of Panathinaikos sits in mid table as we approach the halfway mark of the season and there is not a word of fan discontent regarding Ouzounidis says it all. Imagine if he was backed by an owner willing to contribute in a stable environment…

There have been many highlights for the club over the last year despite all the off-field troubles. Beating Olympiakos twice in the calendar year of 2017 brought its fair share of joy to say the least. The 3-2 away win at OAKA against AEK last season via a 90th minute Berg winner was one of the best derbies in Greek football for a long time. Whilst the Greek Cup semi final second leg was a huge disappointment, the fact that Panathinaikos got that deep into the competition after being on the brink of a group stage exit under Stramaccioni again speaks volumes. Ouzounidis and his charges managed to exact revenge by winning at Toumba in dramatic circumstances as a largely second string team ended PAOK’s hopes of UEFA Champions League participation in the final game of the playoffs last season.

Over the past year, the mentality of the squad has drastically changed as the team now realises its limitations in comparison to big spending rivals but fights for every ball and never gives up. The togetherness between the playing group and the fan base has also been extremely pleasing. Without Ouzounidis at the helm it is doubtful this positive relationship would exist.

Congratulations on surviving one year amidst the turmoil and thank you for bringing back the pride in the Panathinaikos shirt.


by Nick Tsambouniaris
Image Source: sdna.gr
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