Photo: St Albans City FC

Since the official end to the regular league season at Step 2, St Albans City have been busy reshaping the squad for next time around. As well as retaining players, Ian Allinson has added several new faces already, with a double deal announced last week to pep up the attack. Alongside ex-Chelmsford City man Joseph Chidyausiku came Chid Onokwai, who arrives off the back of an impressive season at Haringey Borough.

St Albans’ campaign may not have been what they wished for, though being perched two points above the National League South drop zone at the time of the season suspension allayed any fears while the wider uncertainty rumbled on. Attentions are firmly on 2020/21 now, and the addition of Onokwai, a rangy but strong frontman with a clinical coolness in his armoury, is one more reason to believe it may be a whole lot brighter.

Describing the 25-year-old as ‘a proven goalscorer’, Saints boss Allinson also highlighted the ex-FC Romania goal machine’s desire. Non-League Daily checked in with Chid to find out plenty more about one of non-league’s rising attacking prospects…

 

Firstly, when it came to conversations with the manager about joining St Albans, what kind of things were being said, from your side and theirs?

We spoke on the phone before I went down there. I went down for a meeting and it was him, Chris (Winton), the assistant, and a couple of other members of the staff. They were just speaking about the style of play, how they play football out the back and things like that, and the quality of the players that are gonna be around me, and my attributes that I can bring to the team. He knows a bit about me but I just reinforced it how I’m a direct player, I like to take people on and use my speed and strength, and my finishing in front of goal, and I hope that will help the team in the season.

You’ve described the recent time with Haringey Borough as your most enjoyable year you’ve had in football. Goals of course were one reason, but what in general made that the case?

Yeah, it’s a mix, but definitely the reason why I said it was because of the fans. The fans were outstanding, they were incredible. Obviously it’s unfortunate that I don’t get the opportunity to say goodbye properly, with the situation, but they were so welcoming, they were so noisy. It felt like they weren’t really fans, they were kind of just people that we got along with, and you shake their hands and speak to them after games. Hopefully I can get a similar thing going with the new fans, but it’s definitely a special thing about Haringey.

I know you had some time out injured but were you on 14 goals for the season?

Yeah, I scored 14 in total. I can’t really remember when I got injured, I had a couple of injuries, but in total, I ended up with 14 goals. I think I had 12 starts, but 18-20 appearances in total.

Some ice-cold composure on some of those finishes as well! Is that a real strong point, where you feel you can be calm in those situations? Or are we just seeing the good bits on the highlights?!

No, to be honest with you, that’s just how I finish! Some people say ‘oh, just shoot, just shoot, hurry up!’ but I just use my time. Every situation’s different and sometimes you’ve got to finish it quickly, but if you’ve got time to finish it, you’ve got to finish it properly.

It’s an exciting new start for you, but what has life been like for you since football stopped in March? What has that meant on the training side, but also work away from the game etc.?

At first, it was tough to just receive the news that football’s stopping. So there was no football for me, and I teach, that’s my normal 9 to 5 job. I teach PE, so basically, I stopped everything for that first month; I didn’t really know what to do for like a couple of weeks. All my time was being consumed by just daily news and the outbreak, and how it was getting worse every day, so what you need to do is just turn off the TV and try and focus your energy in different directions. Then I started to get a little routine going after a month, in terms of business plans and ideas for what I’m gonna be doing next year when everything goes back to normal. I’m in touch with the council and with different things just to see what I can do and what kind of business plans I can get into. It’s early days but I’ve got some meetings set up with the council. I managed to find time just to plan and I started training again earlier in the month. I’m gonna go back into work in July, so it’s been good, apart from obviously what’s happening with COVID, and also Black Lives Matter. Anti-racism isn’t a movement, it’s a code to live by. It’s something that should be a part of everyone, and hopefully the exposure of it now is gonna bring people together to openly communicate.

What other options were there before making the decision to sign for St Albans? I guess overseas was less of a possibility?

Yeah, there wasn’t anything direct from abroad, it was just agents trying to get me to think about things. There were a couple of offers on board from this country, and I just looked into St Albans and their team and the way that they play, and I just thought it was gonna work out best for me.

Whereabouts have you grown up, and is the whole family’s heritage Nigerian?

We’re all Nigerian but we all grew up here. I’ve lived in a lot of areas across London and now I live in Waltham Cross; it’s about half an hour from St Albans, I think.

Which team did you support growing up (or still support)?

I’m a Gooner, but I think I just mostly focus on Ronaldo now because I’m done with Arsenal!

The gaffer used to play for Arsenal back in the day (over 100 games for the club between 1983 and 1987)!

Serious? He didn’t mention that! Normally when you get guys who played at that level, they can’t wait to tell you! I’ll ask him about that one. I never knew that.

For anyone who doesn’t know you, how would you describe your personality? In general, and also in a changing room and how you fit into that.

I like to communicate with people, so I like to have a little laugh and I don’t take myself too seriously. I’ll pretty much be involved with that (in the changing room) and I like to get involved with the fans as well. I’m pretty open with that, pretty much an extrovert. I can’t wait to get going and to meet everyone.

What kind of approach do you personally think you need from a manager?

I’m always open to learning. That’s the great thing about working with different coaches, you learn different things. The coaches that can give you the most are the best coaches, in terms of what they can tell you that’s gonna open up and make you a better player. You have to be open to that, otherwise you’re just gonna stay at the same level. So I’m definitely open to listening to new coaches and new ideas.

We mentioned Haringey, but another place you did extremely well was FC Romania. What kind of club was it to be around?

It’s amazing. Firstly, I just wanna say thanks to everyone that was there, especially Ionuţ (Vintilă), the manager. What I’d say is you’re working, you’re doing whatever you do in the week as normal…and then at 3 o’clock on a Saturday, I feel like I’m in Romania! Like as soon as I open the changing room, I’m hearing a different kind of music, I’m hearing pianos, I’m hearing a lot of Romanian vibes! Everything’s cool and it was just a special time for me. I feel like in the future, I’d be open to going abroad, because I really enjoyed it there. I feel like it was an example of what it’d be like if I played abroad.

Who are some examples of the standout characters you’ve been around in football so far?

There’s quite a few. There’s mad people like Macca, Anthony McDonald at Haringey, and Oli Durojaiye, the captain. They’re the leaders there but they’re like the most crazy as well! There’s Simon Grant, goalkeeper at Marlow; top player, but he’s just nuts as well. You can hear him talking to himself from 50 metres away, it’s mad.

We mentioned some of the other things you’re involved in, but are there any other interests you have away from those and football?

I enjoy just meeting new people, so I’m just waiting for them to open everything up so I can go to some social places! That’s pretty much me, I’m definitely an outgoing, bubbly person. That’s why I couldn’t really stand the first month of the quarantine, but luckily things are getting back to normal, so I’ll be back out there, just mingling with everyone, hopefully.

Have there been any series, films etc. that have been helping you through recently? 

To be fair, Ozark got me through a couple of weeks! It was decent, and the Aaron Hernandez documentary; that was crazy.

Finally, as we look ahead, what do you hope to bring to St Albans, and what do you want from this time to come in football overall? Are you focused on enjoying it and seeing what comes, or are there specific goals in mind?

I like to make short-term goals that take care of climbing more levels in the long run. Hopefully I can score some more goals, like loads of them! That’s what gives me the most satisfaction on the pitch, for sure. As far as the fans go, hopefully I can give them as many goals as possible to make everyone happy. I just feel like when you go out there and play, you can’t be thinking about the next step, you just need to perform every day. I do a lot of extra training as well, because you have to at this level. I’ve been climbing levels the last few years, so I’d like to keep doing that, for sure.

Interview by @chris_brookes

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