Papadopoulos Misses Shum, but Fears Matchup With Hapoel

Dimitrios Papadopoulos has fond memories of the 2003-04 season, not only because of Greece's sensational European Championship triumph, in which he came on as a substitute in the final against Portugal, but also because of his coach at Panathinaikos, Itzhak Shum.

The striker arrived at Panathinaikos in the summer of 2003, along with Shum, after having started his career at Akratitos and then spending two years in England with second-division side Burnley.

In his first season at Panathinaikos, Papadopoulos was the club's top scorer with 17 goals in 26 games. With Shum at the helm, Panathinaikos won the double; Papadopoulos was voted player of the year in Greece and went on to win the European Championship with Greece.

Papadopoulos is one of five players remaining from Shum's time at Panathinaikos - he signed a three-year contract this summer and was named the team's captain.

In just over three years at the club, Papadopoulos has worked under seven coaches.

"Without a doubt our situation is problematic," Papadopoulos said yesterday in an interview with Haaretz ahead of his team's UEFA Cup group stage match against Shum's Hapoel Tel Aviv tomorrow. "Anything less than a title doesn't satisfy the fans or the management, so any coach who comes to us is under pressure right away. Munoz [Spaniard Victor Munoz, Panathinaikos' latest coach - U.D.] gives the impression of being an excellent coach, but he starts out with two tough games, against Hapoel Tel Aviv and the Athens derby against AEK, and he has to bring in the results."

Is the match against Hapoel considered tough?

"Absolutely. First of all because it is his first game in charge and because we are expected to succeed in Europe, but also because Hapoel has a proven track record and a coach like Shum. I heard that Hapoel reached the UEFA Cup quarterfinal a few years ago; that is a big achievement for a team from Israel."

Is Shum missed at Panathinaikos?

"The players don't determine who coaches the club and neither do the fans, but Shum's first season was a great period for the club and for me personally. We didn't succeed in Europe, but we won what is most important for Panathinaikos - the Greek championship - and on top of that we won the Cup as well. People haven't forgotten that; many believe it was a mistake to fire Shum. The fact is he took the double, and since then we haven't won anything."