Sunderland will come good this season, says Charis Mavrias, and the Greece international is confident of improving his own form and helping his new club to a top-10 Premier League finish.
Emulating at the Stadium of Light the enduring popularity on Tyneside of Nikos Dabizas – his former director of football at Panathinaikos – will prove an added bonus.
The 19-year-old is one of 13 senior arrivals on Wearside this summer, yet did not sign a three-year contract until late August, having first met Dabizas’ Black Cats equivalent Roberto De Fanti in July.
Sensing the right time to leave Athens and seduced by the football philosophy sold to him by De Fanti, the winger was happy to remain patient for the move to be finalised.
And equally content to play “anywhere” Paolo Di Canio deploys him, Mavrias – who has made two promising substitute appearances thus far – says Sunderland can recover from two Premier League defeats and a draw and climb out of the early-season relegation zone.
“I met Roberto (De Fanti) in July,” said Mavrias, whose side host Arsenal on Saturday. “He told me the philosophy of the team, that they would try to play football, European football, with the ball on the ground.
“I liked the sound of that, so I wanted to come. It took some time to happen but I was calm, I waited. I wanted to come and finally it happened. That’s what I wanted so I was patient.
“I think it was the right time for me to take my next step. I have played a lot of games in the Greek championship and in Europe, so this is the right time for me to come here and my target is to help the team in all of the games.
“Right and left-wing are the two positions I can play, and like to play. Full-back, yeah. In some games I think that I could play there but my (best) position is right and left-wing.
“I don’t know what Paolo Di Canio has in mind, but I follow instructions. If he wants me to play centre-forward, or anywhere, I will play.
“I feel good about my what I’ve done so far. All the players have helped me, and the gaffer’s the same. It’s a very kind environment here, I like it.
“The gaffer likes to work a lot, and to play football. He knows a lot about the game, and for me, I’m young, and he helps me a lot to improve my movements, my football brain. I know I can get even better.”
Sunderland too, Mavrias says.
“I have always followed the Premier League, so I know Sunderland have had a lot of changes,” he said, following a busy summer transfer window on Wearside.
“Panathinaikos are very big in Athens but here you have a big stadium, the training centre. It’s the same here, I think Sunderland are a very good team.
“This year, finally, I think it will be one of the top 10 or 12 teams in the Premier League.
“We have not started the season as well as we would have liked, but I’m still confident we can climb the table.”
And though the first Wear-Tyne derby of the season is still more than a month away, Mavrias is eager to affect it as influentially as former United star Dabizas, who scored the winner in the corresponding game in February 2002, and who recommended Sunderland to his fellow countryman.
“I spoke with Nikos, and he said that this is a very big opportunity for me, to come and play football,” said Mavrias.
“He told me they’re very nice cities, Newcastle and Sunderland. I know he’s loved at Newcastle. I don’t remember too much about that but I know he played there for five or six years.
“They loved the goals he scored – especially one at Sunderland! I hope I can do the same for Sunderland against Newcastle. If I do, I will ring him!”