Tunde Owolabi: “I’m absolutely loving it here at FC United of Manchester”

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Owolabi struck twice on his FC United of Manchester debut against Morpeth Town at Broadhurst park.
[Photography: Mark Lee]

Tunde Owolabi has become one of the most prolific strikers in the NPL, and after securing a move to FC United of Manchester in the summer, the Nigerian-born striker insists that he’ll get amongst the goals at Broadhurst Park.

“I’m absolutely loving it here at FC United”, said Owolabi. “The welcome I’ve received has been overwhelming. From the coaching staff, to the players to the fans, it feels like I never left the club. I’m enjoying every minute, and every second of training and putting whatever kit we play in on match-day.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better debut, scoring twice and helping the team to the first victory of the season. Since then, I’ve not scored since, which has been something that I’ve been disappointed with, but as a striker you live and breath on goals, but look I came to FCUM to win over the fans, to repay the faith the manager has shown in me since day one and do what I do best which is to score goals. I’m confident that I’ll start scoring again.”

In a massively successful 2018/19 campaign with Radcliffe, Owolabi found the net 26 times in a season which saw Jon Macken’s side clinch promotion to the Northern Premier League. During the successful campaign, Owolabi picked up a number of accolades, but admitted that it was time for a ‘new challenge.’

“Last season was remarkable honestly”, said Owolabi. “We had a great team and a great dressing room. We were all pulling in the right direction. That was down to the manager and his coaching staff. They recruited very well and I enjoyed the ride. Scoring 26 goals last season, was a feat I’d never achieved previously.

“I’ll always thank Radcliffe for the opportunity, and providing a platform to play the way I did because if it was not for them, then I wouldn’t be where I am today. As a player you need a manager who’ll believe in you and help you to improve and progress. I had that at Radcliffe in Abundance.

“Now I have the exact same at FC. The manager and coaching staff believe in me so I know for a fact, that I’ll do well here. In terms of the step up, teams are definitely more organised, physically as well. The tempo is quicker I find that if you make a mistake, you usually get punished. But as a player you want to play in a tougher league and test yourself. I’ve never played in the NPL before, but I’m absolutely enjoying it.”

In terms of how Owolabi’s move to FCUM came about, it was a last-minute move. Tunde was spotted at Manchester Airport, and minutes later, he received a called from manager Neil Reynolds, who persuaded Owolabi to join the club.

“I got the opportunity to play football in Malta full-time”, admitted Owolabi. “Since I moved from Belgium to the UK, I’ve been playing in the UK since 2012. So when the opportunity came about to play in Malta, the money offered on the table was decent, I felt that it would be a good experience for me to go there and progress my football outside the UK.

“Things didn’t quite work out there, so I came back with some key decisions to make in terms of where I wanted to go and play. Someone apparently spotted me in Manchester Airport, told the gaffer, and now, I’m here. What are the odds of being spotted in an airport and then signing a few days later?”

Since moving to the UK in 2012 from Belgium, Owolabi admits that this latest challenge is most definitely his biggest challenge yet, given the size of the club at FCUM, and life at Broadhurst Park.

“No disrespect to the teams that I’ve played for in the past, but playing for a club like FC United brings a different kind of pressure and expectation. As a player, you learn something about yourself when under pressure.

“I was under pressure last year, playing and helping Radcliffe get results then making it to the play-off Semi-Finals and the Final, but it was a type of pressure I’ve never been under to be honest. That experience will help me to handle this new type of experience at FCUM.

“It’s a challenge. and I’m not going to sugarcoat it. The supporters at the club have high expectations and as a player, to be successful here, you need to be able to handle the expectation and pressure. But, the lads here are amazing. Yes, the results may not have been going the way we want it to go, but they’re fully committed and will continue to give 100%. There’s a real talent in this squad. We just need to show that in games more consistently. The manager will get us there. 100%.”

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