Toepoker Posted November 28, 2022 Share Posted November 28, 2022 Tonight’s game against Pollok will at once be a completely new experience and a blast from the past for Dipo Akinyemi. The third-round tie at Somerset Park is the English striker’s first Scottish Cup assignment since moving north this summer, but he knows exactly how the West of Scotland Premier Division side will be approaching their visit to the Championship leaders. With 14 goals to his name already, Akineymi has been tearing it up in Scotland’s second tier and seems destined for a bigger stage whether with or without his present employers, but most of his career to date has been spent knocking around the nether regions of the English pyramid with such luminaries as as Potters Bar Town, Aldershot, St Neots Town, Dulwich Hamlet (three separate spells), St Albans City and Billericay Town. There’s more: Bishop’s Stortford, Cheshunt, Braintree Town, Welling United. Many of those years — during which he also worked as a delivery driver — brought tilts at the early rounds of the FA Cup, which means that Akinyemi is well aware of the liberation that can come from having nothing to lose. “I’ve been where Pollok are, many a time,” he acknowledged. “When I was playing non-League in England, we were always the underdog, having to go through preliminary rounds and stuff like that. Pollok will be coming here thinking they can give it a real go and see what happens. I remember one game with St Albans against Carlisle United [in 2016], where we were winning and they had to come from behind to beat us [5-3]. The bigger team can be in trouble if they’re not right on their game in these matches. “We’re obviously the bigger team in this one, but it doesn’t change anything really. We just have to make sure we put them to bed quickly. We have to keep doing what we’re doing. Scoring goals and playing well. Once we show our fitness and our class, we should be all right.” Akinyemi — a powerful, athletic but also technically adept centre forward — has thrived since Lee Bullen moved for him in June. With Tomi Adeloye, last season’s top scorer, having been picked up by League Two Swindon Town, there were big shoes to fill, but Akinyemi’s 16 goals in 34 games for Welling last time out suggested he had the raw materials. Bullen, Graeme Mathie, Ayr’s managing director, and Keith Glendinning, their head of recruitment, were not put off by the itinerant nature of Akinyemi’s career path, while background checks told of a character who was in a better headspace to make the most of a full-time opportunity than had been the case in his early days with Stevenage (who loaned him out seven times in three years). “I wouldn’t say I saw this as my last chance to crack full-time football, because you look at people like Jamie Vardy progressing at a later stage. But Scotland was a chance to get to a completely different environment, get away from many distractions down south and really focus on football,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it was a case of not applying myself in the past, more that I was a bit young and naive with some of the chances I was given. Also, I had a few difficulties with different managers. I wouldn’t say my attitude was bad, but I had things like not playing regularly, stuff like that. You end up going on loan to a lot of different teams which looks a bit weird, but I think it’s moulded me into the player I am. I’ve played a lot of games and come here with a decent amount of football experience. “It’s a great education down there [in non-league]: there are people who are playing to feed their families. You are coming up against men who will kick you up the park, and you have to grow up quickly. But once you’ve had a sniff of full-time football, as I did at 18/19 at Stevenage, you crave being that again. When I was in non-league for a while, I would say it was like an exile period to get myself mentally right, and now hopefully I can kick on.” Bullen’s preference for playing two up front has allowed Akinyemi to bring to bear the strongest suits in his game, but he points to something more fundamental when you ask why it has clicked for him at Ayr in a way that proved so elusive elsewhere. “I think the fact that everyone believes in me here is really important,” Akinyemi said. “ I get to train every day, there’s a good bunch of lads we have in the changing room, a mix of Scottish and English boys. I feel comfortable here, and when you’re comfortable you play your best football. “We play with two strikers, we both feed off each other. I might pop into the pockets a bit, I might stretch the game, we play off each other. The formation and system we are playing is really working, for the team and for me personally. I know that a few strikers, like [Lawrence] Shankland and [Kevin] Nisbet have come here, done well and gone on to have good careers after it. I spoke to a few friends about the opportunity and it became a no-brainer.” Akinyemi — whose parents are Nigerian — grew up in Enfield, North London. He and partner Sandra now have a son of their own, 19-month-old Zane, and the fact the domestic settling-in has gone equally well thus far in Scotland means he will think long and hard should other clubs come calling in January. Akinyemi is already in no doubt about just how much he would be giving up. “You want to play somewhere you are comfortable, somewhere where you can feel at home. I’ve got a family too, and I have to take those factors into consideration as well. I won’t just be upping and leaving straight away,” he said. As long as the goals keep coming, so will the attention, however. Akinyemi concedes he is “close, very close” to his private target for the season, and doesn’t exactly shout you down when you ask whether the arrival of a non-league team might see his eyes light up. “This year, the goals I’ve scored both here and down south, it’s been the best scoring form I’ve had. I just hope to keep the standards up and continue scoring. I guess so [your eyes light up], but you can’t go into this sort of game naively. I’ve watched Pollok’s game against Annan [a 4-3 win in the previous round] and they played very well. We’ve just got to make sure we are professional and we don’t get turned over. “In terms of my goal target, I’m probably going to have to reset it now, hopefully very soon. I don’t want to jinx it, though.” Ayr United v Pollok today, 7.45pm, Scottish Cup third round, Somerset Park TV BBC Scotland 3 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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