THE BIG INTERVIEW: Harrison Panayiotou

Harrison Panayiotou signed for Aldershot Town after enjoying his time in Greece with Aittitos Spata. He started his career at Leicester City and scored on his only first-team appearance for The Foxes against Leeds United.

Shortly after, Harrison enjoyed loan spells with Port Vale and Raith Rovers before joining National League side Barrow. The St Kitts and Nevis international talks through his journey, the move to The Shots, his international career, his time in Greece and some interesting hobbies too.

Let’s go back to the beginning, where did football start for you?

“I used to play Sunday League. I always played football and I remember Thierry Henry being my idol.

“I always wanted to be a footballer so I was playing Sunday league from the age of eight and then I joined Leicester City academy in the under-13 team.”

You said your idol was Thierry Henry, do you like to compare your playing style to him?

“I wouldn’t say that I likened myself to him. I believe that he was the one that made me want to kick a ball in the first place.

“He made me fall in love with football. I used to watch him play and think that he was unreal with the ball at his feet. I aspire to play as well as him one day.”

What was it like playing in Greece? How different was it to life in England?

“It is definitely more physical. There are a lot of bookings in Greek football.

“I think it is more technical as well. They like to play out from the back and build from the defence to create a chance up top.

Was it hard to adjust to life in Greece or did you adapt well?

“It wasn’t because I’m half-Greek. The Greek culture is similar anyway so it wasn’t too hard to adjust.

“Having a part of you from the country helps a lot. I knew what to expect and I just got on with it.”

You had a good time at Leicester City a few years back and you’re remembered for that injury-time winner against Leeds United in your first appearance for the first-team. How did it feel? Describe all of the emotions you went through?

“It’s the best feeling ever! It’s not even because of the goal, it’s because I was born and bred in Leicester so the goal was very special to me. It was like no one could take that goal away from me. The feeling was absolutely unreal.

“Scoring for your own city, there is no better feeling than that. I can’t even remember how I celebrated. I think I just kept running. I was that happy, I had no idea how to celebrate because you just don’t expect it.”

Is there anyone from that Leicester team that fans would recognise now?

“There was Hamza Choudhury, Chilwell and Harvey Barnes. We were all in the same youth team together. They’re all my friends.

“I love seeing them play now. It makes me think how far they’ve all come and how far I’ve come actually.”

You also played at Barrow. Describe your main memories from your two years there?

“I didn’t really enjoy Barrow if I’m to be honest with you. It was so far away from home. I didn’t get to see my family and friends much so the area wasn’t the best for me.

“I believe I did alright there but I had to find somewhere else that was closer to me and the people that I like to have around me.”

Talk to me about the journey of becoming a St Kitts and Nevis international. How did that come about?

“I played in the youth team for St Kitts and Nevis. It’s a country that is very close to my heart. It is where my mum is from and I always wanted to make her proud by representing the country. There is no other feeling that is better than representing your true heritage.

“My Grandma is also from there. I got the call when I was 18 and I started to play for them.

“I didn’t even think twice about the decision to represent my country’s colours. It was a no-brainer. My family are from there and it’s just so good that I have the chance to keep representing the country and making them proud every time I put the shirt on.”

Being an international, what is your favourite memory playing for St Kitts and Nevis?

“It was when I scored my first professional hat-trick. That was the best moment. It was in the World Cup Qualifiers so it was a huge game. To get a hat-trick was an unbelievable feeling, I got to take the match ball home with me as well.

“All my friends and teammates signed it. It was a proud moment for me.”

In the future, what aspirations do you have for your international career?

“I want to try and be the all-time leading goalscorer. It’s not just about me though, it’s about the country.

“We’ve never been to the Gold Cup so I would like us to get there. It would mean the world to me. If we can get to the Gold Cup one day, I’d be the happiest man alive.”

From your time in Greece, how did the move to Aldershot Town come about?

“When I was in Greece, I saw that Aldershot were interested in me. I came back to England and I sat down with the gaffer (Danny Searle) and he said ‘I really want to sign you’. That was the end of that and I was an Aldershot Town player.

“He is definitely one of the best managers that I’ve worked under. He’s such a good man and people person and he knew the way that I wanted to play football.

“He had visions for where he wants to take the club and that’s the type of manager that I want to work under.”

Since joining, what have you learnt under Danny Searle and the teammates this season?

“With the gaffer, you can just be yourself around him. You can talk to him like he’s a father figure.

“He’s always there for a talk. You can have any problem and he’s more than happy to discuss them with you.

“I’ve just learnt that he’s such a people person and players shouldn’t be troubled, they should come to him with any enquiries that can be solved.

“It’s a proper family-orientated team and that’s what he has done for us. he’s taught that we have to love our teammates, the fans and fight for the badge that is on our shirts because that is what the fans care about.”