A University of Central Lancashire student has put his studies on hold to follow his dream of becoming a professional footballer.
Andreas Makris was a student at the university’s Cyprus campus studying on the BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Science programme.
However, his education has been placed on the backburner after League One outfit Walsall smashed their transfer record to sign him this month from Anorthosis Famagusta.
The Saddlers paid £300,000 to take the 20-year-old to the Banks’s Stadium and he has gone straight into the Saddlers first-team plans.
He made his debut as a second half substitute against Yeovil Town in the EFL Cup defeat during the first week of the season and has since gone on to make three appearances in the league, including starts against Chesterfield and Charlton.
The Saddlers finished an agonising one point outside the automatic promotion places last season – and then were thumped 6-1 on aggregate in the play-off semi-finals by Barnsley, who went on to secure promotion to the Championship.
Unfortunately, it has not been the best of starts for Walsall this season – they have picked up just one win from their opening four games.
Despite the slow start, the head coach Jon Whitney has high hopes for the Cyprus international, who has already represented his country on 10 occasions alongside fellow Saddlers star Jason Demetriou.
“I became aware of him last year when he was playing for Cyprus with Jason,” Whitney said.
“When I was looking at some of the footage from the medical side of things I noticed him and started to profile him back then and asking Jason what he was like as a character and a person.
“He’s had a lot of interest over the years. He made his professional debut at an early age and went on to become a full international so he’s got good experience for a 20-year-old.
“I wanted to get a striker in who has got potential and someone we can develop over the next three years and I can see him really fitting in with the club’s philosophy. He fits the profile we look for in the forward areas and he can play as a No.9 or on either wing. He’s got a great energy about him, an eye for goal and has a good tactical awareness, which is important for how we play.
“Fundamentally, he has a hunger to come and play and it’s great he has decided that Walsall are the best option to help him fulfil his potential.”
Makris came up through the ranks at AEP Paphos before earning a move to Anorthosis Famagusta in 2013 after some eye-catching displays.
He made the move to Larnaca for €£20,000 and was named the best young player in Cyprus by the Cypriot FA.
His 13 goals in 30 appearances helped fire Anorthosis to a third placed finish in the 2014/15 season, when he also came runner-up in the country’s goal of the season award.
While playing football, Makris continued his studies, but after being snapped up by Walsall, he has now suspended his studies to concentrate on his football career full-time.
Makris said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at UCLan Cyprus for the fantastic support I received during my studies.
“The campus has a real family feel and the academic staff were full of encouragement as I balanced my professional football career in Cyprus while completing my assignments to deadline.”
“I would like to thank my professors and sports science course leaders at UCLan Cyprus, Dr Koulla Parpa and Dr Marcos Michaelides. They were a real inspiration to me and I aim to use the valuable knowledge gained from the course and apply it in my new career as a professional football player.”
Makris is naturally enthusiastic about his future at Walsall: “I am very pleased to be here.
“From the moment I walked into the stadium I felt comfortable and I know this move will further my career.
“I will always give my best here and I can’t wait to score goals and celebrate with the fans. I’ve followed Walsall since last year. Jason (Demetriou) gave me some great advice about Walsall , he’s a good friend of mine and only said good things about the club.
“Of course, every player has his own targets but for me I hope we can reach the Championship. Hopefully we have a good season this year and achieve our goals.”