Iraklis rise from the ashes to become promotion challengers
When Iraklis found themselves demoted to the Gamma Ethniki following a financial crisis, the Thessaloniki club’s future looked bleak. However, the 2017/2018 season has displayed the team’s inner strength.
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For a number of years, Iraklis were battling serious financial problems, with the crisis culminating in relegation from the Super League in the 2016/2017 season. Iraklis were sent down to the Gamma Ethniki, but despite the potential for the club not to rise up from the ashes, the exact opposite has happened.
The Gamma Ethniki regular season recently ended, as Iraklis topped Group 2 after edging out nearest challengers Aris Palaiochori by a mere four points. Promotion to the Football League is decided by the playoffs, where Iraklis will face Apollon Paralimnio, Tilikratis and Volos NFC in Group 1. The best two teams earn a place in Greece’s second footballing tier, but taking into account how the season began, Iraklis are happy to even have the chance of progressing from the Gamma Ethniki.
To be honest, Iraklis endured a pretty traumatic start to life in the Gamma Ethniki. Amazingly, Iraklis registered for participation just three days before the league began, meaning that the club had no time whatsoever to get a roster together. At that point in time, any hope of Iraklis somehow winning the group and making the promotion playoffs seemed more like a pipe dream.
Naturally, given the chaos surrounding the club, it’s not surprising that Iraklis started the season poorly. In four games, the team only picked up five points, losing to Karitsa, drawing with Agrotikos Asteras and Almopos Arideas and beating Megas Alexandros Trikala. Things weren’t looking positive, but then something dramatically changed.
CHANGE OF FORTUNES
After a disappointing start, Iraklis suddenly rocketed up the table, registering six consecutive victories against Pierikos, Kilkisiakos, AO Kardia, Makedonikos, Naoussa and Kampaniakos. On a roll, the club rose to third place in the standings, while pulling off excellent transfers at the same time. Taianan, Mendy, Michalis Giannitsis, Leo De Smedt, Nikos Kourellas and Marios Koutsoulas all joined the club in impressive deals for the Gamma Ethniki.
Constantly improving, Iraklis’ promising form continued into the second half of the campaign. Eventually, with just one round remaining, the team snatched first spot and beat Edessaikos 3:1 in the final game in Thessaloniki to punch a ticket to the promotion playoffs.
A huge season behind their success is 23-year old striker Christos Rovas, who has embarked on a superb scoring run. Incredibly, Rovas has scored 29 goals so far this season, almost half of Iraklis’ 63 markers. Leading the line to brilliant effect, the forward has emerged as one of Greek football’s best goalscorers, even if he’s plying his trade in the Gamma Ethniki. If Iraklis are to be promoted to the Football League, they need Rovas to continue hitting the target on such a regular basis.
No matter what happens in the promotion playoffs, Iraklis have displayed their strength, determination and desire to rescue a fatal situation and turn it around. You can bet there’ll be a fun party in Thessaloniki if Iraklis do qualify for the Football League.
Gamma Ethniki promotion playoffs: