Former Newcastle United and Portsmouth player Lomana LuaLua has linked up with Tilbury FC in pre-season – and a deal is not completely out of the question.
By Chris Brookes
The Thurrock club are set to begin the new season in the Bostik League North Division and are managed by LuaLua’s former Colchester United teammate Joe Keith. Keith was an up-and-coming midfielder with The U’s when LuaLua was making his professional breakthrough as an exciting young forward, which famously led to signing for Sir Bobby Robson’s Newcastle United in September 2000 for £2.25million.
LuaLua, 37, last played competitively for an English club in the 2011/12 season, for Ian Holloway’s Blackpool in the Championship, and he has represented a number of Turkish clubs since. He spent last season in the Northern Cyprus division, the KTFF Süper Lig, playing for Alsancak Yeşilova SK, and Tilbury boss Keith explains how he came to have him in his line-up on Monday night.
“I just got a phone call out of the blue from him the other day. We always kept in contact and messaged each other and that, so I got a phone call and we were just chatting, I asked what he was up to and he said he’d come and watch a game.
“He came and watched the East Thurrock game and he was quite impressed with the team and he just asked if he could come in and do a bit of training. It was one of them where we’ve not been able to train that much because we’ve had so many pre-season games, so I just said ‘would you like a game?’
“He just said yeah and he wanted me to give a judgement on his boy as well, who played in the same game. He did stand out, he was very good, but I’m not sure how far it could go in terms of signing him or anything.
“I think it was just to help him out, a bit of publicity for us, but I think there is a possibility that he would sign. I’m not really sure what the situation is with it at the minute.”
LuaLua played 45 minutes in Tilbury’s friendly with Hashtag United, the ‘YouTube team’ set to enter the Thurlow Nunn League Division One South this season. The ex-Olympiacos man, famed for his somersault goal celebrations, could potentially be involved in a game with FC Romania tonight.
“He’s travelling down from Peterborough for the games,” Keith explained. “He wanted to come and watch anyway and I said ‘if you want a game it’s up to you’ and he said ‘yeah, I’ll let you know,’ so that was how it was left really.
“He might message me today; it was his first football activity for six weeks on Monday, so he might be a bit stiff to play. I think I’ll know later today whether he’s going to or not
“But like I say, it was more a favour to him, and as long as it doesn’t impact on people getting their vital minutes for me then I’m happy to do that.”
If the opportunity was there to sign him, though, would the possibility of having a one-time UEFA Champions League player in the ranks be something Keith would be excited to utilise?
“Yeah, I mean it would be good. Even after, he was brilliant in the dressing room with the young lads. He was answering all their questions and there were a few who rose from having him alongside them.
“It would be good to have him. It would be difficult to get him in, because I’ve put together a good squad anyway and I’ve got four good centre-forwards.
“I don’t know how long-term it would be with Lomana because he probably does want to play a bit higher, so there’s things I have to weigh up as to whether it would be a good move for us.”
Interview by @chris_brookes