Peter Odemwingie: Derby was the biggest club game of my life

“As a footballer, you are striving to get into the hearts and minds of people by doing something good – that is the opportunity Albion’s players now have.”

West Bromwich Albion's Peter Odemwingie celebrates completing his hat-trick and scoring his sides fifth goal during the Barclays Premier League match at the Molineux.
West Bromwich Albion's Peter Odemwingie celebrates completing his hat-trick and scoring his sides fifth goal during the Barclays Premier League match at the Molineux.

Those are the words of Baggies’ favourite Peter Odemwingie – a man who understands better than most exactly what a Black Country derby means.

It was back in February 2012 that the Nigeria international netted a stunning hat-trick as Albion romped to a 5-1 victory over their rivals. One of the finest days in the club’s recent history, Jonas Olsson and Keith Andrews were also on target on an afternoon that shook Molineux. With Albion struggling at the wrong end of the table at the time, Odemwingie entered the derby knowing it was a game of huge importance.

But he admits, back then, he didn’t quite understand just how much the game meant to supporters, with its significance growing on him in the days, weeks and years that followed.

Now, though, the 39-year-old believes that match – almost nine years ago – was the greatest he played in during his domestic career.

“When I look back on that game, I would say that it is probably the biggest game I played in club football,” he said.

“I didn’t realise that was the case before kick-off. But having seen the impact it has had on the fans and the club’s history – that’s definitely the case now.

“At the time it was only my second season in England – you understand it’s a derby but you can’t just immediately understand all the years of rivalry when you are new to an area. I spoke to players who had played in it before to understand more of the history and I read what was being said in the newspapers. Who knows, if I had known what I know now, I might have scored five!

“But Roy Hodgson summed it up really well. He said ‘We are professionals, we understand it’s a derby, we need points to stay up.’

“And all those things together meant we went out to give our best possible performance. But when the goals started going in things did change for me. I can remember to this day the reaction of the fans inside the stadium. They were overjoyed.

“Then afterwards you see supporters buying DVDs from the club shop.

“They were selling T-shirts with my face on that said ‘Demolition derby day.’

“It was, without doubt, one of the most memorable days of my life.

“As a professional footballer what you are striving for is to get into the hearts and minds of people with something good and that is what we did that day.

“I feel so blessed to have achieved what we did and been a part of it.”

Odemwingie admits fans of both clubs now often stop him to talk to him about the game and the goals he scored.

“That day is full of memories that are solid enough to last a long, long time – a lifetime,” he continued.

“I’m always having banter with fans, my friends, former players, even people in my church who are Wolves fans who say they hate me! I always say ‘Thank God we are human beings first before being passionate about sports!’

“Reminders come from everywhere. We are all looking for times like this in football – what makes us love the game is big moments.”

Albion enter the game sitting second bottom in the Premier League table, six points from safety.

But while the team has struggled this season, Odemwingie has told the players this is their chance to turn the campaign around.

“The 5-1 game was an away game in a season where we were still in a relegation battle,” he said.

“We were in a relegation battle but that result helped change things for us and from it we went on to win many games and end up in mid-table.

“It allowed us to build momentum and a team spirit that went on to keep us in the league.”

Odemwingie is adamant Albion can win tomorrow.

“Of course we can win,” he added. “It’s a derby so anything can happen.”

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