The second half of the Football League season is well underway, here are a few players that may have gone under your radar to keep an eye out for in 2014.
Assombalonga’s move to current club Peterborough was signalled in in a particularly cringworthy manner, with Chairman Darragh MacAnthony announcing his arrival in a tweet ending with ‘#goals’. No pressure then Britt.
Before this questionable use of social media, Assombalonga’s rise had been relatively under the radar. This is perhaps surprising after he netted 16 goals while on loan to Southend from Watford the season before.
Being signed by a League 1 club for £1.5 million is eye catching enough, however, his performances this season as well as his price tag have merited attention. Being signed for a club record fee would certainly put off other players of a similar age (21), but there is no sign of this fazing Peterborough’s most expensive signing. One recommended way of settling the nerves, is to score on your debut. This was achieved by Assombalonga in the 9th minute, a goal which ended up being the winner against Swindon. Not a bad start.
A flash in the pan perhaps, the old Marouane Chamakh maybe? No, this certainly hasn’t proved to be the case with this powerful and pacey forward. 15 goals and an assist have pushed Assombalonga to the top of the League 1 scoring charts. His move, it would appear, has paid off for Peterborough. It is fair to say it was a wise choice by Assombalonga too. Current Peterborough manager Darren Ferguson’s has a history of developing players from relative obscurity. George Boyd of Hull and Dwight Gayle at Crystal Palace are two players in particular who have benefited from Ferguson’s tutelage.
Although 5 yellow cards could be chalked off as the result of a physically committed player, I’m sure this is still something that Fergie junior would like to see omitted from Assombalonga’s game. The future is bright for this young player, at the age of 21 he looks to have a good all round game. Peterborough will be hoping he can rejuvenate their promotion bid.
When Kelvin Wilson returned to Nottingham Forest in the summer, Forest fans could be forgiven for placing their hopes in this proven defensive stalwart. However, when Wilson picked up an injury early on in the season, it was down to academy graduate Jamaal Lascelles to take on his defensive responsibilities.
Other than ardent Forest fans and fervid followers of the England Under-18s – of which I know none – little was known of this young centre-back. Well, except for Stevenage fans. Lascelles had had a loan spell at the League 1 side making 7 appearances, recording a goal and an assist from his time in Hertfordshire. Still, a surprising replacement for Kelvin Wilson with the more experienced players available.
Forest lost the first two games in which Lascelles started, regardless of this, Lascelles transition to the first team has been seamless. His calm and confident displays at the back has induced interest from Premiership teams, culminating in Everton being fined £45,000 for an unauthorized approach and the club allegedly rejecting a £5 million offer from Arsenal.
The 20 year-old’s performances have certainly justified such admiring gazes. In his 14 appearances this season he is has proven himself on the ball and in the air – winning 3/4 of his aerial duels in only his second first team start.
A defender of genuine technical ability and bravery is something that England badly lack at the moment. The future England manager could do a lot worse than giving this young centre-back a chance (better than including Adam Johnson for instance).
This player first came to my attention when The Metro, admittedly not a pillar of journalistic excellence, reported that Arsenal and Spurs were interested in signing the Leyton Orient winger. Even though this interest was unlikely to be genuine, there must have been something about Moses Odubajo, who spent last season on loan at Bishop’s Stortford (exactly), that was attracting interest from England’s finest.
At the age of 20, Greenwich born Odubajo has seen his fair share of hardship in pursuit of the dream career. At the age of 14, he took a break from football after his mother passed away. At the first time of asking, he initially failed to obtain a scholarship at Leyton Orient after refusing to play at right back in the trial. What a turn around in fortunes it has been then, apparently now valued by Orient at £3 million with 9 goals and 6 assists this season – Odubajo is an indispensable part of Orient’s promotion push.
It is perhaps ironic that after nearly ending his chances with Orient by refusing to play full back, that Odubajo has occasionally been used there this season. This versatility has certainly increased his importance to the side, but, without doubt, he is most dangerous on the wing. Odubajo’s skill and pace has caused problems for countless sides this season with club top scorer David Mooney an undoubted beneficiary (14 goals).
At the end of last season, Odubajo cited that he must improve his end product, at his age there is plenty of time to improve. There is no doubting the potential and ability of this player, being awarded Leyton Orient’s goal of the season 2011/12 for his first senior goal against Rochdale demonstrates this quite pointedly.
I am sure there was an audible sigh of relief from Orient fans when the January window slammed shut. This relief is sure to be temporary as there will be no end of suitors for this exciting young winger in the summer. And, you begin to question whether Odubajo will stay at Brisbane Road if Russell Slade’s team are not playing in the Championship next season.