Taiwo Awoniyi: From sewing his own football boots to seven Liverpool loans to Nottingham Forest | Soccer News
Taiwo Awoniyi reached the Premier League via the scenic route.
Liverpool fans will be reminded this weekend that it was a Nottingham Forest striker who scored the winning goal against them to mark the first televised Premier League game on Sky Sports 30 years ago.
Three decades after Teddy Sheringham’s arrival, Awoniyi hopes to announce himself to the Sky cameras as West Ham visit the City Ground on great sundayafter his six-year stint at Liverpool left him with a sense of unfinished business in England.
In 2015, he joined the Merseyside club for a fee of around £400,000 after impressing at the U20 World Cup in New Zealand for Nigeria. Then, aged just 17, he was immediately loaned out to German side FSV Frankfurt – the first of seven loans before he moved to Union Berlin on a permanent basis last summer.
The striker has only just been granted a UK work permit, so his year-long loan moves before joining Union were by necessity more than design. Awoniyi may have wondered if his Premier League dream was over.
African football journalist Usher Komugisha recounts sky sports“A lot has been done to protect local players in England. Six years ago it wasn’t very easy for an African player to get a UK work permit and it still is.
“There’s been a lot of talk at the FA to protect the Premier League and especially the English players. We’ve seen over the last four years, in fact since England won the U20 and U17 World Cups in 2017, many English players continued to make England a serious contender for the World Cup.
“To do that, you have to tighten some of the rules on foreign players allowed into the country. Now you have to play for one of the top 75 nations in the FIFA World Rankings, and you have to have played at least 50 percent of games for that country over a set period of time.
“It gives a limit, and that was the case when Awoniyi first joined Liverpool. It was unfortunate for him because everything was going very well back then.”
Forest’s decision to make the 24-year-old striker their club-record signing earlier this summer marked the latest chapter in a whirlwind journey for the lad from Ilorin, the town in western Nigeria.
Awoniyi, a devout Christian, sewed his own boots as a child and came to training at Kwara Football Academy early with repair tools. Its resilience is a story told by many African actors.
“Sadio Mane wore the same boots for years,” Komugisha reveals. “Sometimes you could see his toes through his shoes. He ran away from home, borrowed money and went to Dakar to try his luck at football when his parents wanted him to go to the school.
“It was the same for Odion Ighalo, who came from one of the biggest slums in Nigeria – Ajegunle (a densely populated suburb of Lagos). they can collect £1 in two days they are able to feed their family.
“It’s the kind of background that gives Awoniyi his fighting spirit.”
There were several moments of sliding doors.
In July 2009, Jose Mourinho visited Kwara State as a guest of ex-Governor Bukola Saraki who had just established Kwara Football Academy.
Taiwo is a player we truly believe in and look forward to seeing him fulfill his potential and become one of the Premier League’s top strikers with Nottingham Forest.
In 2010, he would play in a football tournament in London, winning the MVP award as well as the Golden Boot. It seemed a matter of when, not if, he would get his chance to shine on a higher stage.
“Nigeria have done an amazing job in youth tournaments over the years,” says Komugisha.
“They are five-time U17 World Cup winners and in 2013 he was part of the team that won in the United Arab Emirates. He was in the same team as Kelechi Iheanacho, but he was actually playing second fiddle until ’til Isaac Success gets hurt.
“It got him into the core of the team and he helped them win the tournament. He then made the U20 team in New Zealand two years later. team but he was in the conversation then as part of the new generation to take over from the senior group.”
After struggling during loan spells at FSV Frankfurt, NEC Nijmegen, Mainz, Mouscron (twice) and Ghent, Jurgen Klopp was instrumental in convincing Awoniyi that a permanent move from Liverpool to Union Berlin would play to his strengths.
Fifteen goals in 31 Bundesliga appearances last season opened the door for another crack in the Premier League.
Steve Cooper and Forest have signaled their intent this window as they seek to return to the Premier League after a 23-year and not temporary absence.
Awoniyi has put pen to paper on a five-year deal following his £17.5m move from Bundesliga side Union Berlin – and Forest have completed 12 new signings in total. This number is expected to increase in the near future.
Emmanuel Dennis, who has been linked with a switch to Premier League newcomers, came from the same Kwara football academy as Awoniyi, so a reunion may well be in store to further ease his adjustment period in a new environment.
Not that Komugisha thinks the player will need a lot of adjustments, or feel the pressure of his club record.
She continues, “When you look at Nigerian footballers, even African footballers, they know how to deal with unfortunate circumstances.
“Not to give the impression that those in other places in the world don’t, but to give you some context, Nigeria is a country of 220 million people. By the time you do part of a national team, you have to be pretty good.
“You had to go through incredible sacrifices and circumstances to make the national team. Taiwo grew up on the streets of Ilorin trying to make sure he could make it to the big stage.
“Nigeria had great players from different generations who wowed the world. We had players like Jay-Jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu, John Obi Mikel – they are all inspirations for Taiwo.
“Whenever they faced a big challenge, they all looked for solutions the same way Taiwo did. He recognized he couldn’t play for Liverpool, but he looked for alternatives to keep the dream alive.
“His goal was always at some point to come back to the Premier League. You can use Mohamed Salah as the perfect example. He played for Chelsea, things didn’t really work out for him, he went to Fiorentina and then to Roma before coming to Liverpool.
“Now he literally rules the Premier League.”
Cooper opted to play a two-man forward line last weekend in the 2-0 loss to Newcastle with Brennan Johnson playing near Sam Surridge.
It was remarkable how isolated former Forest man Michail Antonio was in West Ham’s 2-0 loss to Manchester City as the lone striker, so it will be interesting to see if Cooper maintains the same form in a bid to overcome the opposition.
Awoniyi was introduced from the bench after 63 minutes at St James’ Park, so which system suits the striker best?
“I think Taiwo could make Nottingham Forest one of the big surprises of the Premier League season,” Komugisha concludes. “I feel that the circumstances of the past few years have prepared him for this moment.
“He works well in a two-man attack but he can also adapt to whatever is presented to him. He will do his best to fit in with the philosophy of the club, but it also depends on the opposition that Forest is facing. is confronted.
“There have been reports that Forest are close to signing compatriot Emmanuel Dennis from Watford. If they have this duo up front, Forest fans should be very excited. It would be raining goals! “
What will Awoniyi bring to Forest?
European football journalist Andy Brassell to Sky Sports News:
“I think it’s a statement of intent. Awoniyi has been great for Union Berlin over the past two seasons and especially last season.
“He’s their all-time top scorer in the top flight. You look at his strength and the variety of goals he scores, and he was the man who made sure they qualified for the League. Europa at the end of the season.
“He’s someone who can create his own shot and pick up the pieces. What really impressed me about him is that his really creative hitting partner has done a lot for him – Max Kruse. He’s gone and returned to Wolfsburg in January, and Awoniyi has taken center stage and is happy to really take responsibility for the attack.
“I think he will be absolutely great for Nottingham Forest.”
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