When James Demetriou first signed for Swansea City’s youth team in 2014, there were hopes that the young Aussie striker could take the step up to the English Premier League side’s first team.
However, the youngster’s progress in Wales stalled due to injuries and off-field dramas and now, after moving to Cyprus and signing with Karmiottisa FC, Demetriou is determined to fulfil his potential.
After impressive performances in Nottingham Forest’s Under-21 team, the bright lights of the world’s most glamorous football competition came calling and the teenager signed a two-year deal with Swansea City.
Big things were expected from the young Cypriot Australian striker, who at the time had spent time with both the Australian and Cypriot national youth team set ups.
But reflecting on his time in England, Demetriou felt that he wasn’t able to put his full talent on display during his two seasons playing in the Under-21 Premier League.
“Swansea was a decision that I had to make at 18 years old,” he said. “I was going to accept a new deal at Nottingham Forest or move up a level and play at a Premier League Academy. Everything was good and as soon as I got there I ended up getting injured for four months with an ankle injury and that kind of set me back for a season. I came back and some stuff reoccurred with the injury, so it was a very stop start season and I didn’t get the consistency that I wanted.”
When Demetriou did come back to action, he helped the club win their first U21 title, in a campaign that saw the team go unbeaten for 15 games. After recovering from his injury, his second year was marred by what he calls a “naïve mistake”, as betting offences saw the English FA fine the youngster £700.
“The second year I learnt a lot,” he said, looking back. “With what happened and what went on within the corridors of the club and outside of the club it was definitely a massive learning curve in my career and probably the most valuable. I learnt a lot there and that has been the most valuable development as a footballer. So I’m really grateful for Swansea City and for the time I spent there.”
Soon after Demetriou went on loan to Wealdstone FC, who are based in Middlesex and in the sixth tier of English football. Demetriou says that even though the National League South club was a different level to the EPL he gained some valuable playing experience.
“I was there for about two months,” he said. “That came about as I had some problems with the FA in England, and once all that stuff cleared I had a number of loans that were offered to Swansea but they were turned back, including an offer from Perth Glory.
“That was my first real taste of men’s football. Although it was not the level I wanted to be playing at, it did teach me quite a lot. There is something you could pick up from every team and every coach that you play under.”
At the end of last season Demetriou parted ways with Swansea and signed with Cypriot top-flight club Karmiotissa FC, which is based in one of the villages in Limassol.
Both Demetriou’s grandparents were born in Cyprus and the youngster said that being in familiar surroundings was a factor in making the move to the Mediterranean island.
“It was basically a decision to come somewhere where I felt comfortable playing and I felt at home,” said Demetriou. “It was about being in the best atmosphere that I could put myself in to make sure that I was enjoying not only football but my lifestyle as well. Obviously, I am comfortable in the UK, but to get a good level of games in the UK is much more difficult than Cyprus and the opportunity arose to come here.”
After waiting for an international clearance, Demetriou was finally cleared to play in December 2016 and on 19 January the 21-year-old striker made his first appearance.
“Once I made my debut it was a fantastic feeling,” he says. “To do it against AEK Larnaca which I know at the moment there is a bit of interest from them was an even better feeling. Not only did I feel I had a point to prove there, but I had a point to prove to many of the people that I have met throughout my football career. It was a very good feeling and now it’s time to build on that. The coach rewarded me with all my hard work and I’m thankful for that.”
As a teenager, Demetriou featured for Cyprus’ Under-21 national team on three occasions and after signing with Karmiotissa, Cypriot team officials have again made enquiries. However, when it comes to playing international football, the 21-year-old’s dream is to represent his country of birth.
“We’ve had contact again from the Cyprus National team but I am fairly adamant where my goals and ambitions are in terms of the national team, and that is with Australia,” he says.
There are other Australians playing football in Cyprus, including the APOEL duo of Jacob Eliopoulos and Tom Podaridis. Demetriou and Eliopoulos came up against each other earlier in the season and the former Swansea player revealed that he imparted some wisdom to the young defender.
“I’ve been where he is now, in an academy and trying to prove yourself to a first team coach, and it can be definitely frustrating at times,” says Demetriou.
“I reminded him that in the long run, when you get that professional debut it’s one of the most rewarding feelings in the world. It overcomes homesickness, it overcomes missing family and it overcomes any of the sacrifices that you have to make as a footballer or as a young Australian footballer going overseas at such a young age.
“That is definitely something that I’ve learnt myself. I’ve come to learn now, being 21, that everything that I’ve given up in Australia to be where I am now is more than worth it.”
Demetriou has set himself the goal of playing regular football in Cyprus, but the talented striker wants to demonstrate to himself and others that he can play at the highest level.
“That is a huge motivation for me at the moment,” he says. “I definitely feel that I have a lot to give to the game of football, especially in the UK, and I feel that if or when I get the next chance there I will take it with both hands.
“I need to get a consistent run of games. There is some interest back in the UK, and although there is interest here I could be on the move in the next transfer window or I could stay in Cyprus.
“I have to let my football do the talking. It’s up to the people that watch and the clubs that are interested. I know where I should be playing in the UK. In football terms, I do have unfinished business there and I want to repay the faith in the coaches that gave me the opportunity to play at that level and I have to build on that.”