WHEN Mark Bower signed a former international in January, supporters were delighted that a player of such experience was prepared to roll his selves up and fight for the Avenue cause of trying to retain their status in the Vanarama National League North.

The footballing story of Stelios Demetriou is a unique one. Born in the UK before moving to Cyprus at the age of three, Demetriou battled his way through the Cypriot league system before earning a move back to his native country.

It was still no usual route back though as the defender landed at Scottish Championship side St Mirren in the midst of a relegation scrap. Fourteen points was the gap that former Sunderland manager Jack Ross had to make up and with Demetriou’s help, which included three goals, survival was achieved with a final day draw at Hibernian, meaning on goal difference the Saints stayed up.

Mirren upset the odds the following season by ending at the opposing end of the table, winning the league by more than 10 points. Demetriou enjoyed his time north of the border but was disappointed at how it all ended.

He said: “When I signed the club were in a bad situation, the fans didn’t believe that the club would stay up and then Jack Ross signed 10 players in January and we stayed up. I scored a few important goals that season too.

“I had a good connection up at St Mirren with all the fans and I still look out for their results. It was only a year and a half, but I really enjoyed it and it felt like three or four seasons.

“The manager left and another one came in and I never got offered a contract. The new manager came in from down south and got rid of most of the squad. He wanted to build a whole new team. It was tough to take after what I’ve done to then know you are not wanted. I wanted that opportunity to play in the Scottish Premier.”

A brief spell at Ross County followed before a call from a certain Premier League legend came which the Cypriot could not refuse.

“When you get a phone call saying Sol Campbell wants you at the club, it was great, he was one of my idols growing up,” Demetriou said of his move to League Two Macclesfield.

“It was a strange one. I was at Ross County about to get promoted and I got a phone call from my agent saying that (Macclesfield boss) Sol Campbell wants you to come down and play.

“I signed there and didn’t get a chance to prove myself. I only had two games which I did well.”

It was a tough time for the Moss Rose club, which Demetriou acknowledges.

“It was a bit of everything, the financials and other circumstances. He (Campbell) kept Macclesfield up so he did his job.”

During that period, the 29-year-old achieved a life’s ambition in representing his country on the international scene. Despite only making his debut as a late substitution in a 3-0 defeat against Jordan, Demetriou still ranks the feat at the top of his footballing achievements.

“It is the best thing a football player can do, play for his country,” he said. “It was a big thing, it might have only been a few minutes but a cap is a cap so I will take it any day. I wanted to get more games for Cyprus, but at this level it will be hard to get a call-up again.”

So how did a full back who was plying his trade in the Football League only last season end up in a division two leagues below.

Demetriou said: “I wanted to get playing at this level again. I was playing in the league below just to get fit.”

Avenue remain stranded at the bottom of the National League North, though that did not deter Demetriou from joining.

“When the gaffer first called me and asked me to come on board, I knew it would be a hard situation to stay in the league,” he admitted.

“He said we are going to give it a go and thinks it is possible. I have really enjoyed it with all the lads in the dressing room.”