Return Of The Yak: The Striker Talks Everton, Portsmouth And Blackburn Rovers

Before returning to the Premier League with Blackburn Rovers it seemed that Yakubu’s career was destined for a period of managed decline. How wrong could we be? The striker’s goals have been pivotal to a reverse in the fortunes of the Rovers, and may well keep them in the Premier league yet...
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Before returning to the Premier League with Blackburn Rovers it seemed that Yakubu’s career was destined for a period of managed decline. How wrong could we be? The striker’s goals have been pivotal to a reverse in the fortunes of the Rovers, and may well keep them in the Premier league yet...

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Before returning to the Premier League with Blackburn Rovers it seemed that Yakubu’s career was destined for a period of managed decline. How wrong could we be? The striker’s goals have been pivotal to a reverse in the fortunes of the Rovers, and may well keep them in the Premier league yet. We caught up with the big man to discuss his radical renaissance, as well as his time at Everton and Portsmouth...

So, Yak, your current form has been incredible; why do you think you’re performing so well this season?

I think the other players in my team have contributed towards my performances. If we’d not been playing well, then I don’t think I would be doing well. It’s not like a game of tennis where you play as an individual. Training has also been really good; I think I’m as fit as I have ever been. I worked really hard in the summer to get into the best possible shape and it has paid off with me scoring goals.

The four goals against Swansea and the brace against Man United were both unbelievable performances; do you think they’ve been two of your best?

Not really. Since I came to this club, I think every game has been really good. It was a great feeling to score at Old Trafford and to score the four goals against Swansea, but it’s important not to dwell on those performances. I need to keep working and hopefully I can score more goals to keep us in the league.

I came to this club, I think every game has been really good. It was a great feeling to score at Old Trafford and to score the four goals against Swansea, but it’s important not to dwell on those performances. I need to keep working and hopefully I can score more goals to keep us in the league.

A lot of people felt that being loaned out to Championship side Leicester last season might have signaled the end of your Premier League career. How did you feel about it?

I had some chances to go to other Premier League clubs, but I didn’t want to go there to play one game and then be rested for the next two. I didn’t play for almost eleven months and coming back from injury I didn’t have the chances to prove myself at Everton. So I had to go down to the Championship. I have to give credit to the manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson, for taking me there and giving me the opportunity to play Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday. Football is like that – people write you off and it’s left for you to prove yourself. You have to forget about what people say about you and you’ll be fine.

Do you feel as if you’ve proved a point to anyone who doubted you?

I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. When you look at my goal record, wherever I’ve played, no matter what league… I have nothing to prove in football anymore. I think I have already done it. When I score or even when I don’t score, when you see the way I play on the pitch, I have nothing to prove.

What do you feel; if anything; went wrong at Everton?

Nothing went wrong. I had a great friendship with the people there. I had a good four years. I think it was the right time for me to move. Maybe the manager didn’t believe in me towards the end, and I didn’t want to sit on the bench, so it was good to go to Leicester and prove myself. I have great friends at Everton but it’s good to be playing football in the Premier League again.

Another Scot, Steve Kean, is currently managing you. What do think it is about Scottish managers that has seen them so successful in the Premier League?

Their mentality is very, very strong. Even when you are tired, they make you believe that you can play, just as the manager said to me before the game against Aston Villa the other week. I’d flown all over the world to play for Nigeria, I came back to get ready for the game after a 10-hour flight and then played 90 minutes. They make you believe – forget about the traveling and you’ll be fine. They want players to walk out at training and give everything – not treat it like a holiday. They want heroes in the game, not people who don’t put the effort in.

What do you think are the main differences between Steve Kean and David Moyes?

There are always differences: a different style and a different mentality. I learnt from David Moyes and I’m learning from Steve Kean too. The attitudes they have are both really, really great, so it’s been good to work under both of them.

You’ve scored goals wherever you’ve been, what do you think it is about your style that suits the Premier League so well?

For me, I can keep the ball. I’m not an Andy Johnson, who will run the channels all day long. Whenever I have the ball, I play as a team. I’m a team player. Some players, when they don’t have the ball or when they don’t score goals, you don’t see them. But for me, even when I don’t score, I still create something in the game, which is good for the Premier League and which is good for my team too.

I can keep the ball. I’m not an Andy Johnson, who will run the channels all day long. Whenever I have the ball, I play as a team. I’m a team player.

How are you enjoying your time at Blackburn?

It’s been really good, but I will only be happy if we stay in the league. It’s a tough league and it won’t be easy, but we’ve got a few games to go and I believe we are going to stay up.

Have you set yourself any targets for the season, on a personal level and for Blackburn?

Of course. I’ve got a lot of goals already but hopefully I can get 20 goals or more. That would be great.

This is the second club you’ve played for in the North West, how do you find that region of the country?

It’s nice. Traveling around has been hard – Middlesbrough, Everton, Leicester and now Blackburn. But it’s good to be here. I’m happy here. The most important thing when you are at a club is that you are happy. The people here make you feel welcome and make you feel at home. Wherever you play, when you are happy, you can give it your best.

You’ve played right across the country: where has been your favourite place?

I enjoy it in England. I hope to stay here until the end of my career, but in football you never know. I live in Manchester now and I’m enjoying there although living in Liverpool was good too. But Portsmouth was great for me; it’s like my home. It was my first time in the country; all my friends and family were there too, so Portsmouth was the best.

Finally, do you like your nickname “The Yak”?

It was Harry Redknapp who gave me that name when I came to Portsmouth. He said ‘Yakubu; it’s too long!’ It wasn’t long! It’s just six letters! But for him, it was too long, so he said ‘I will call you Yak, is that ok?’ So I said ‘yes, it’s good’. And then everyone started calling me Yak. It’s a great name and it’s a lucky name too; which is good!

Yakubu was interviewed by Phill Curry for HalcyonMag.com

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