Elijah Adebayo: Walsall rollercoaster made me

Plucked out of obscurity and given a chance to shine, Elijah Adebayo’s journey so far has been a series of ups and downs.

SPORT COPYRIGHT TIM STURGESS EXPRESS AND STAR...... 23/01/2021..... Port Vale  v Walsall fc ......Pictured, Elijah Adebayo celebrates his second  goal..
SPORT COPYRIGHT TIM STURGESS EXPRESS AND STAR...... 23/01/2021..... Port Vale v Walsall fc ......Pictured, Elijah Adebayo celebrates his second goal..

When the striker arrived at Walsall he was at a crossroads in his career. Like many youngsters leaving academies at higher-level clubs, he departed Fulham as a free agent and rocked up in League Two.

Adebayo had previously spent time on loan in the fourth division but did not set it alight and his first few months with the Saddlers were difficult – netting once in 15 games.

He told the Express & Star: “The first seven or eight months was tough for me. With the overhaul in terms of the amount of players that came in, it took us longer than we expected to gel.

“We wanted to get everything going but we struggled in certain departments.

“I didn’t really find my feet until just before the lockdown started.

“I needed to find a level of consistency and I found that towards the end of my first year. I came back in the summer and I was ready to hit the ground running where I left off.

“I had to pick up where I left off and this year has been a rollercoaster ride. I had people helping me, like Dutts (Brian Dutton) who helped me a lot.

“Even in the off season he called me a lot because he brought me into the club. He was looking after me, he was like my mentor while I was there.

“He said he thought I’d found my feet and it was about me kicking on and showing people how good I am.

“I felt more relaxed from there and after playing with the lads for a long time there were no excuses for us not to perform.

“Obviously I’d have liked to be higher up the table while I was still there. The Port Vale game was my last and we thought if we finished the second half of the season strong then we’d get into the play-offs. It was enjoyable, I enjoyed my time there and have nothing bad to say at all. I just wish the fans were there in that second year, because I think there would have been a lot more to cheer about.”

With Dutton’s help the forward enjoyed a superb end to the 2019/20 season, before it was curtailed, and then netted 10 times between September and January last campaign in his final months as a Walsall player.

He added: “It would have been good to have Marcus (Stewart) there for the second year as he helped me a lot in that first year. But Dutts was the main figurehead, not only in training but off the field stuff, checking up on me. Giving me little bits of advice and telling me how I can make the next step up.

“Him and Darrell Clarke were working closely with me after the training sessions, doing one-on-one stuff.

“I enjoyed my time there 100 per cent.”

A big part of Adebayo’s game and improvement was ‘finding his fire’ – something he consistently spoke about as an unnamed reason to get him motivated.

Although he is yet to say what that is, he insists it is still there and helps him gain more consistency.

He said: “It’s still getting me motivated but the main thing I took from it was consistency.

“What I needed to improve myself was being at a consistent level. Having a baseline of where I start games and go from there.

“If anything it was hard work, off the ball more than on it. Everyone loves a player that can work hard.

“That was the main thing driving me forward. The rest takes care of itself.”

That spell at Walsall – which transformed him from a raw talent to a potent goalscorer – ended in January when he moved to Championship side Luton Town.

Weeks of speculation dominated his final moments in a Walsall shirt, with Scottish side Hearts making an approach to sign him.

For the 23-year-old it was the first time he has experienced that kind of attention but he insists he did not get in the way of his focus.

“To be honest, it didn’t really bother me,” Adebayo said.

“At the end of the day I knew what was true and what wasn’t true. I was a Walsall player and that’s what my job was first and foremost.

“I didn’t really take any notice. People would ask me but I was playing football and enjoying my time at Walsall. There was nothing to focus on outside of football. I just wanted to play games and score as many goals as I could, whether I was there all season or if I left halfway through. A lot of players might get side-tracked from the speculation but it did not really bother me.”

His final Walsall game came away at Port Vale where he netted a brace in a 3-1 win. He celebrated both his goals by sticking his fingers in his ears – seemingly indicating he was blocking out the background noise – and now he has spoken about it publicly for the first time.

“I was just having a bit of fun really,” he added.

“Everyone seemed to be talking about me and no-one actually knew what was going on. I was playing for Walsall and it was a bit of fun to say that I don’t care what is going on outside.”

In the end, his Saddlers journey was complete and after a good start to life in the Championship the striker is now aiming for the top as he forges a successful career in the game.

“I was walking into a new club and the standards have gone up massively,” he said.

“For me, I’m thankful for the opportunity I was given and I wanted to show people how good of a player I am.

“I knew it would be difficult and I was playing at Walsall week in, week out.

“I’ve embraced the challenge.

“It’s been good, so far. I thought it would have taken me a little bit longer to get used to it but it’s a tough old league.

“I’ve learned that you have to be efficient and take your chances, even more so in the Championship as they have players that can hurt you.

“In terms of myself, I’ve settled in. Everyone has welcomed me and I’ve settled down fairly quickly, which is good.

“It’s about kicking on now and making sure I’m a constant figure in the team and trying to help Luton as much as possible and furthering my career. Taking it to the next stage which is hopefully the Premier League.”

Most Read

Most Read

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News