Dimi Konstantopoulos can’t wait to test himself against the very best after achieving his dream of playing Premier League football.
The 37-year-old goalkeeper played a key role in Middlesbrough’s promotion back to the top flight, with the Teessiders recording the best defensive record in the league.
And the former Hartlepool United stopper - who kept 22 clean sheets in the 46-game Championship campaign - believes everyone associated with Boro deserves a place at the top table.
“It’s fantastic – it’s where everyone wants to be,” said Konstantopoulos.
“All over the world everyone wants to play in the Premier League to test yourself against the best players in the world.
“We’ve done it, credit to everyone and the amazing fans.
“All the effort over the season, the fans, chairman and manager – everyone deserves it.
“We’ll enjoy this moment then go back on pre-season and be ready,” added Konstantopoulos.
The 6ft 5ins Greek stopper has built a life in the North East after Neale Cooper signed him for Pools in 2003 from Portuguese side SC Farense.
Konstantopoulos cemented his place in Poolie folklore during the 2004-05 campaign when Pools went within eight minutes of promotion to the Championship, Sheffield Wednesday beating them 4-2 in the play-off final in Cardiff.
Konstantopoulos had spells with Coventry City and Kerkyra and AEK Athens back in his homeland before Boro brought him back to the North East three years ago.
And he has never looked back.
“Middlesbrough and the North East in the general has been fantastic to me, it feels like home,” added Konstantopoulos, who made 139 appearances for Pools between 2003-07.
“You can see what it means. The connection between the fans and this football club is amazing.
“You can see what it means to everyone, it’s such a massive life and now we’ll enjoy it.”
Meanwhile, former Manchester City midfielder Adam Clayton is relishing his Premier League return - seven years after he left the top flight. “It’s unbelievable, I dropped out of the Premier League six years ago and it’s been my mission to get back there. The support is the best I’ve ever played for.”