Back to his best

It is at Stoke City that Peter Odemwingie finally seems content again, with four goals in his first nine games contributing to an impressive run which has put the Potters on course for a top-half finish, writes Matt Lawson.

Peter Odemwingie is arguably best remembered for his infamous actions on transfer deadline day, but the striker is once again making the headlines for his performances on the pitch.

Having made an immediate impact in English football, things turned sour for Odemwingie at West Brom and failed to work out at Cardiff.

Now at Stoke, he is one of several players who have revitalised their career under Mark Hughes. Odemwingie now looks a different player with the smile back on his face.

Born in Tashkent, Odemwingie and his family moved to Nigeria when he was just two years old and turned professional with Nigerian Premier League side, Bendel Insurance, at the age of 17.

Odemwingie had an unsuccessful trial at Belgian giants Anderlecht in 2002 but did enough to impress fellow Belgian club La Louviere, where he helped the team qualify for the UEFA Cup in his first season and then scored against Benfica.

This prompted interest from English club Blackburn Rovers, who offered Odemwingie a trial in 2004 but decided not to offer a contract.

An opportunity to move to Lille quickly materialised instead and the striker adapted to French Ligue 1 seamlessly, with the highlight being his two goals against AC Milan in the Champions League.

Odemwingie’s electric pace and eye for goal alerted a host of big European clubs but it was Lokomotiv Moscow who swooped first in 2007, agreeing a reported fee of GBP6 million on a four-year contract.

He managed a respectable 21 goals from 75 games in the Russian Premier League, before moving to West Brom in 2010.

He ended his first season in England as West Brom’s top scorer with 15 Premier League goals — earning an improved four-year contract — and achieved double figures again in the 2011/2012 season.

His head was turned by transfer speculation though and Odemwingie shocked the club in January 2013 when he handed in an official transfer request. It was swiftly rejected by the Baggies, prompting an angry tirade of abuse from Odemwingie via social media as he accused West Brom of “reaching into his pocket.”

As the transfer window drew to a close, Odemwingie was caught up in one of the most bizarre transfer stories seen in the EPL, when he turned up at Queens Park Rangers believing the London club had agreed a deal to sign him. West Brom had denied Odemwingie permission to talk to QPR, however, leaving him stranded outside the Loftus Road stadium with television cameras filming him.

His manager Steve Clarke described Odemwingie’s decision to drive to QPR before talks were concluded as “total lunacy.”

Odemwingie has never been afraid to speak his mind, a trait which has landed him in hot water during his international career. He openly criticised coach Shaibu Amodu’s tactics after Nigeria’s semifinal elimination at the 2010 African Cup of Nations, saying there was “no logic” to their pattern of play.

The striker was then involved in a dispute with Stephen Keshi when he was omitted from the 2013 African Cup of Nations squad, accusing Keshi of “disrespecting” him. He finally got his wish to leave West Brom last summer and was relishing a “fresh start” when he linked up with newly-promoted Cardiff City in a GBP2.25 million deal but it proved shortlived.

His fortunes changed after the departure of manager Malky Mackay and the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with his move to Stoke City quickly following.

It is at Stoke that Odemwingie finally seems content again, with four goals in his first nine games contributing to an impressive run which has put the Potters on course for a top-half finish.

Odemwingie is grateful to Stoke boss Mark Hughes for the opportunity he has been given to once again prove himself in the EPL.

“When you have the backing, the players believe in you, it makes a whole difference,” he said. “You’re not playing, thinking ‘they might sub me now’, and I feel relaxed.”

Whether things can stay that way remains to be seen, but for now Odemwingie is back to his best.

FACTFILE

NAME: Peter Odemwingie POSITION: Striker CLUB: Stoke City COUNTRY: Nigeria DOB: 15/7/1981 INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 55 INTERNATIONAL GOALS: 9 MOMENT TO REMEMBER: Scoring two goals against AC Milan in the Champions League at the San Siro in 2006. MOMENT TO FORGET: Spent just five months at Cardiff City, scoring a solitary goal in 15 appearances.

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