KACPER Lopata has been hugely influential in Southend United surge up the National League standings.

But football was not the first sport the centre-back shone in.

Lopata excelled when playing handball in his youth.

And that even led to him earning an international call up.

“In year 10 we had a PE teacher, Mr Pitt, who I actually saw about a year ago when I went back to Bristol,” recalled Lopata.

“We had a group of football lads and he got us all to try handball.

“Six or seven of us tried it, we went to a tournament and it turned out we were really good at it.

“I actually got called up for England but then I had choose between football and handball.”

And Lopata opted to focus on football.

“I’m not sure if I could ever have stuck at handball but it was just something different and I was good at it too,” said Lopata.

“I was nowhere near as good at football as I was handball back then but here I am!”

Lopata certainly looks to have made the right choice and has become a hugely significant figure with the Shrimpers.

Since signing on loan last season, Blues have lost just four of their 27 league games with Lopata in the starting line-up, with three of those setbacks coming in his first four games.

But, without him, the Shrimpers have triumphed just six times in 23 matches.

Lopata’s influence has certainly helped Blues go nine National League games without defeat during a fine run of results which has included seven clean sheets.

That has seen Kevin Maher’s side work their way up to sixth in the standings and sets up an intriguing tussle with table-topping Notts County at Roots Hall on Tuesday night.

“We’re looking forward to the game,” said Lopata, who scored his first Blues’ goal in Tuesday’s 3-0 win at Barnet.

“Notts County are a good side but so are we.

“We’re on a good run and we want to keep that going with another good result.”


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