Derbyshire makes a big splash at Olympiacos

May 1, 2009
Harry Underwood

The Blackburn Rovers misfit who swapped Lancashire for Athens is helping the Greek side towards a league and cup double

Ian Rush denies he ever complained that "Italy was like another country" during his short spell with Juventus, but the quote stuck. Though there are honourable exceptions - John Charles, Kevin Keegan, Gary Lineker and David Beckham among them - British footballers don’t tend to do too well in foreign leagues.
Now, however, England Under-21 international Matt Derbyshire is making a name for himself in Athens with Olympiacos. Shunted out on loan from Blackburn Rovers in January, the striker has taken to life in Greece with some aplomb, even with the added pressure of having to father one-year-old twins in a country where he doesn’t speak the language.
His first goal was an extra-time winner in a fraught cup quarter final against PAOK Salonika, Olympiacos's fierce inter-city rivals and he has since scored five goals in seven league games, helping the club to win its twelfth league title of the last 13 years.

"I knew Olympiacos were a big club," Derbyshire told the Daily Mail. "I knew they'd played in the Champions League and had big players like Rivaldo in the past but I suppose I didn't realise quite how big until my first day, with all the media attention at the airport.

"People were coming up to me to tell me what it meant to play for the club. They've got so much passion. They told me to wear lots of red and never wear green because that's the colour of their rivals Panathinaikos."

This weekend, Derbyshire has the chance to help add another trophy in the final of the Hellenic Cup against AEK Athens. Though he still has three years left on his Blackburn contract, he hasn't ruled out staying in Greece.

There are a few other British players currently plying their trade abroad: Colin Kazim-Richards, from Walthamstow, moved to Fenerbahce from Sheffield Utd and played for Turkey in Euro 2008. Steve Finnan moved to Espanyol on transfer deadline day at the start of this season, but has barely made any appearances since he picked up a back injury. Darren Huckerby, now verging on retirement, was voted the MLS Newcomer of 2008 after moving to the San Jose Earthquakes. Gifton Noel-Williams, a striker who used to score occasional goals for Watford and Stoke, briefly helped Real Murcia to promotion in La Liga in 2007 and now plays in Austin, Texas. And Tyrone Mears escaped from Derby after they were relegated and has spent the season with Marseille.

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