Tam Cheong Yan
Gombak United striker Kingsley Njoku stated that he was ‘happy’ to be able to return to the Jurong West-based side, after missing out on a transfer to Europe.
The 22-year-old, who had been with the Bulls since 2007, had initially looked all set to clinch a move to top Norwegian club FC Lyn Oslo.
The two-time Tippeligaen winners had to drop their plans, however, as the global financial crisis hit the club’s coffers, and Njoku was told to continue his career somewhere else.
That “somewhere else” turned out to be where he had gone to Oslo from in the first place, and Njoku was all smiles even as he recounted how things had failed to work out after what he described as a successful trial.
“I got my trial at Oslo together with two other Nigerians, and everything I wanted to do was accomplished,” he toldsleague.com.
“But the recession hit that club hard, and so they couldn’t sign any of us. They promised us they will contact us again once things get better, but for now they have to sort out their financial situation, so our transfers were put on hold.
“That’s when I called the chairman, Mr. John Yap, and told him about my situation. Before I had left for Norway, he said I should keep him informed if anything happened to me there, so I did that.
“John is like a father to me, and when you are in trouble, you go back to your father. So since I cannot play in Oslo, I came back to this club and didn’t think of joining someone else.”
The Nigerian’s return to S.League football sees him link up with compatriots Ojimi Gabriel Obatola and Emmanuel Emuejeraye, as well as Singapore striker Agu Casmir, who is of Nigerian birth.
20-year-old Emuejeraye, who originally wore the No.14 shirt in the senior roster, now moves down to the Prime League in accordance with S.League rules, and it was he who made room for Njoku when the latter came on as a substitute against the Young Lions.
He took a while to get back into gear, but as he noted, it was not difficult to find his feet after the experience he had during the freezing Scandinavian winter.
“The weather over in Norway was hard to deal with, and I needed time to get used to it,” admitted the striker, who now wears No.16.
“The game in Europe is also so much tougher, so I’m happy I accomplished something during my trials. But once I came back here, it did not take too long for me to adapt back to this team.
“I’m happy to come back; everyone here is like family to me. So when I came on, I told them, especially Agu and OJ (Obatola), that we can win this game, and we did.”
The win came courtesy of an injury-time goal by Njoku himself, after he had ghosted away from Afiq Yunos to head home Casmir’s cross.
Bulls coach Darren Stewart could not have scripted a better way for the striker to make his comeback – not that he tried, though, if his conservative comments were anything to go by.
“Kingsley will add some strength up front for this team,” he noted after the match.
“Apart from the goal, he didn’t do tremendously in his first game. But that’s expected, because he has not had a competitive game since November last year.
“He didn’t even have a proper training session with us before the Young Lions game. All he’s had is only a 20-minute kickabout with the rest of the boys the day before, and when I sent him in, all I wanted was for him to move around and kick the ball about a bit.
“I’d say at this point, we shouldn’t expect much from him. Well, not yet!”
Stewart also added that the club remains keen to add Norfahazly Kamsan to their attacking options, even though he has conceded defeat in his attempt to rush the deal ahead of the transfer window.
The former Singapore Under-23 striker was in a race against time to pass the mandatory fitness test, known as the Beep Test, and had been training with the club where he had plied his trade in 2006 and 2007.
Norfahazly will now have to wait for the transfer window to reopen on 29 June, but he will be boosted by the backing he has received from Stewart.
“I have nothing but the deepest respect for Norfahazly,” said the Australian.
“He’s given his heart out fighting to get himself fit, although it looks like he will not meet the first deadline. But there is still the second window in July, and we are working towards that.
“We’ve not given up on him. He is too good a lad to let go.”