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The Punch


Sunday, August 14, 2011

I'll consider playing for Nigeria - Ayodeji, Nigerian-born England player

Agency Reporter

It is impossible not to notice Michael Ayodeji Ngoo. At 6 feet 4 inches, the difference between the 18-year-old and his mates on-and-off the pitch is glaring.


Michael Ayodeji Ngoo

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His surname Ngoo does not sound Nigerian but the lanky England U-20 and Liverpool player reveals his root is Nigerian and his love is for the country.

"My mother is Nigerian, same as my father, who is from Ibadan. My mother was born in Nigeria and came over to England where she met my father and they got married and I was born there.

"I have been to Nigeria a lot of times and it's a good country to be fair. I have visited Yaba and Oshodi in Lagos, they are great places to be," he said with smile that expressed fulfillment.

Obviously Ngoo is not a Yoruba name. So where did the player get the name from?

"Actually my grandfather is Cameroonian but my father was born in Ibadan . But I see myself as a Nigerian living in England."

Several Nigerian-born players, who have starred for England at junior levels, have switched allegiance to their fatherland, the most recent being Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi and Wigan winger Victor Moses.

Others like Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor have opted to pitch tent with England but Ngoo may join Ameobi and Moses in the nearest future and play for Nigeria if things went according to his plan.

"I will see how it goes. Depending on the level of things, why not? But let's see how things go because England is a prospect as well."

He even takes time out to watch Nigeria's big stars in the English Premier League like West Brom's Osaze Odemwingie, Mikel Obi (Chelsea), Victor Anichebe (Everton) and others.

Such is his love for the Nigerian brand of football and he admits he has been fascinated with the performances of these players week-in-week-out in England.

"Nigerian players are very good players. When they perform, it's good to watch them. They know how to play beautiful football. I get fascinated whenever I watch them play."

His height is an obvious advantage but what he truly brings to the side is his ability to run with the ball, get past defenders and create goals just as much as score them.

However at the ongoing FIFA U-20 World Cup, he managed substitute appearances in the group stage against Argentina and Mexico having missed their group opener against Korea DPR.

He explains, "What matters is moving ahead in football and not personal glory. Some teams scored some goals and got knocked out in the first round. We are happy to have moved from our group in the first place."

Ngoo's impressive physical attributes and finishing ability led Rafa Benitez to sign the youngster from Southend two seasons ago. He had been on trial at Manchester United at the start of that season, impressing in the Milk Cup in Ireland for United's youth team. But the Merseysiders however beat United to Ngoo's signature and purchased the striker back in September from Southend for an estimated figure that could rise to as much as 250,000.

At Old Trafford, he had done well enough to be judged as one of the best players on show and United were interested in making the deal permanent. Yet there was also some reluctance from their part to pay what Southend were asking and ultimately nothing came out of it.

Mentally it must have been tough on him to get over such a disappointment and, when the chance to play for Liverpool came about, he gladly grabbed it.

Last season, United won their 19th league title, one ahead of Liverpool, to become the best club in England but Ngoo believes Liverpool will return to winning ways when the new season begins.

"Liverpool are going to bounce back because we have a lot of solid players and a good manager who is highly respected."

The player has been compared to England international Peter Crouch but unlike Crouch though, Ngoo also possesses a great deal of pace, something the former Liverpool striker lacked, and combined with his aerial threat, the player has been tipped to go far in the professional game.

"I am happy to be compared to a great player like Crouch but I think I need to concentrate on my football and give my best too just like Crouch does anytime he is on the pitch," Ngoo adds.

Ngoo is optimistic that he can make the cut at the Reds despite the array of stars at Merseyside.

He says, "I am doing well at the club now; as you can see I have been called up for England and I am playing for them at junior level.

"I think with time I will get my opportunity and break into the first team. I am just 18 and still have to learn a lot of things in my career. I hope to learn from the big players so that I can also be like them one day."

If you think with his huge frame Ngoo should have been playing on a basketball court, then you are wrong.

"Football has always been my greatest hobby right from when I was a kid and I decided to make a career out of it. I never had the intention of playing basketball despite my height," he says.

The player is happy to have played at the World Cup and he believes the competition will serve as a stepping stone in his career.

"It's a very good experience for me to play amongst the best youth players in the world and I hope to move on from there," he sums up with a smile.