Can Apostolos Stamatelopoulos make Arnold’s Asian Cup squad?

Apostolos Stamatelopoulos has the longest and one of the hardest names to say correctly in the A-League – but fans are quickly getting used to the pronunciation, after a blistering start to the season.

His flying start has seen six goals in six matches, for a team many believed would be challenging for the wooden spoon – the Newcastle Jets.

The Jets have proved already to be an early season surprise packet, on the back of the goalscoring exploits of the boy from North Adelaide.

Stamatelopoulos, who is affectionately known as “AP”, was trained by his father who was an ex-player for West Adelaide, before starting his football journey in the juniors with Adelaide Comets.

Comets always felt like a family to AP, especially under the watchful eye of his father who was involved with the club during his son’s teenage years.

AP also had stints with Adelaide City and the SASI program, before returning back to the Comets to play for the under 17s – it was that season that caught the eye of scouts and Adelaide United quickly pounced signing him for their NPL side.

After a strong preseason in 2017 training with United’s first team, AP was promoted on a scholarship contract with current Socceroo Ryan Strain and a player many believed was another star in the making, Kristin Konstandopoulos.

AP’s energiser bunny-like work rate quickly made him a favourite of the most chaotic coach in Adelaide United history, Marco Kurz.

(Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Kurz’s 18 months in charge involved many training ground bust-ups with senior players, rough treatment of the teenagers and consistent arguing with the then board over finances and the development of youngsters.

AP, who was only 18 at the time, listened to Kurz and was rewarded for his hard work, coming off the bench and scoring in the dying minutes to earn United a hard-fought draw against Wanderers.

Four goals in 15 matches as a teenage Australian striker was a modest return in his first season as a professional – but once Kurz was sacked, AP fell out with the new coach and knew an exit was imminent.

His next move saw him become an inaugural squad member for Western United, but once again found game time limited due to a certain Besart Berisha being the established No.9.

There was then a quick stopover in his first spell at the Jets, before finally achieving his dream of playing in Europe – signing for Greek second division side Rodos.

As a country Greece has had a very chequered history with Australian players – from not being paid, boardroom politics and corruption – it can be a very hard country to settle in.

Being familiar with the country and fluent in the language, AP was expected to take Greece by storm – but like his football journey so far, things didn’t go as expected.

AP’s time at Rodos saw him get on the score sheet once every three games, before moving up to the Greek Super League with Giannina.

Giannina though narrowly avoided relegation and struggled for goals. Stamatelopoulostook took part in 17 matches, without breaking his duck in the Super League.

The Greece move was deemed as a failure and looking to rebuild his career, AP took a chance by signing for Newcastle Jets.

In six games with the Jets this season, he has already displayed all the traits that many saw during his teenage years.

AP has always been a penalty box striker; his movement often sees him in the right place to finish chances or be on the end of a ball bouncing around the box.

Then there is his underrated aerial ability – he is equally adept at scoring with his head as his feet.

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Perhaps the best trait he has shown this season is the ability to convert chances from very minimal service of his teammates.

AP has taken 13 shots and seen six of them bulge the net with a great xG of 2.69 and an average of scoring a goal every 83 minutes.

If Stamatelopoulos keeps his hot streak up, a call-up for the Asian Cup with the Socceroos is not out of the equation.

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