Back in 1997, Sheffield United signed relatively unknown Greek star, Vassilis Borbokis.
Manager at the time, Nigel Spackman, was assembling a useful squad of experienced and quality players to have a crack at promotion. As well as those qualities, he also had a number of young players on hand.
The likes of Curtis Woodhouse, Lee Morris and Wayne Quinn, were all breaking through at the time. Not to mention the inclusion of a certain Chris Wilder in the squad.
Funnily enough for the current Blades boss, it was the aforementioned Borbokis who kept him out of the first XI.
The Greek full-back was like many Blades fans had never seen before and he made an immediate impact at the Lane.
Borbokis makes a splash
That season, United lined up against fellow promotion hopefuls, Sunderland, on the opening day of the campaign.
United, led up front by the brilliant pairing of Brian Deane and Jan Age Fjortoft, were expected to challenge. A win over Sunderland would lay down a marker.
Borbokis did just that. After seeing United go 1-0 up through Fjortoft, Borbokis stole the show. Drifting over from the right-hand side, he took a touch away from the defenders on the edge of the area, before firing in an unstoppable drive past the Sunderland goalkeeper with his left foot.
It was a moment to savour and one Borbokis – and a lot of Blades fans from that era – remember fondly.
He scored again in his next outing in the League Cup at Wrexham. It was clear United and Spackman had pulled off a blinder in signing Borbokis.
Despite Spackman losing his job in March, Borbokis continued to be an integral part of the Blades squad and first XI.
United finished sixth. In a strange twist of fate for Borbokis, it was opening day opponents, Sunderland, who stood in his way of a place in the play-off final at Wembley.
On a personal level, he delivered again. A stunning free-kick at the Kop end in the first-leg ensured United went into the second-leg with a 2-1 lead. That goal on its own, demonstrated the sheer quality Borbokis had in his locker.
It wasn’t to be for United, however, who ultimately crashed out in the second-leg at the Stadium of Light. An own goal from Nicky Marker and a 34th of the season for Kevin Phillips sending the Blades packing.
Borbokis stayed with United into the next season and repeated his feat of scoring in the opening two games of the campaign. However, this time around, he would not see the season through.
The Greek right-back sealed a move to Derby in March of 1999 to bring his spell with the Blades to an end.
Vassilis Borbokis was, to many Blades fans, one of the finest right-backs we’ve had in recent decades. His natural ability to drift past players and create from nothing, got fans off their seats.
While we see the marauding right-back being a common aspect of modern football now, Borbokis was one of the first we’d seen to encapsulate that notion.
It is, therefore, a crying shame that only a handful of Blades got to witness his brilliance in a spell that was too short for this writer’s liking.