The Manchester United website described him as a “danger man”, while Chelsea’s went for “troublesome”. In football, introducing Tope Obadeyi in this way is a compliment.
At the age of 22, Bolton Wanderers’ Obadeyi is widely regarded as one of the finest English talents in a Premier League reserve side and he’s putting Championship clubs on alert as he looks to make the step up to regular first-team football.
In fact, he has been somewhat of a thorn in the side of United’s second string in recent seasons, highlighted by his stunning strike during last week’s fixture between the two reserve sides.
So why have a team in Bolton’s lowly position not handed a chance to a player that last season was heavily praised for turning Manchester United full-back Rafael inside-out during a Manchester Senior Cup tie?
“I wish I could tell you but I can’t put my finger out on it,” Obadeyi told Footy Matters. “It’s not like we [me and the manager Owen Coyle] have had a falling out, because we haven’t. His man-management is great and I haven’t got a bad word to say against him.
“I believe that I could make a difference in the first team and feel that I could bring something different to the table. You’ve got to back your own ability.”
It all started for Obadeyi at the age of 11 when a manager of a local Sunday League side in his hometown of Birmingham approached his mother. At the time he was playing up front for his school team alongside a certain Daniel Sturridge, but Obadeyi’s mother had little idea that her son was even interested in football.
Nevertheless, his first season in schoolboy football saw him find the net on 81 occasions, averaging at least a hat-trick on every outing. Such statistics alerted a number of scouts, with offers on the table from Coventry City, Birmingham City and Crewe Alexandra. Coventry’s “personal touch” appealed to Obadeyi and his family and so at the age of 12, he became a Sky Blue.
A move of this magnitude would not have been made possible without one person in particular though.
“I come from a Nigerian background and my mum was very harsh with me and my sister growing up,” Obadeyi explained. “She came over to this country and grafted. She showed me that you have to work hard to achieve your goals.
“She would take me to training from Birmingham to Coventry three times a week and we wouldn’t get back until 10pm regularly. She used to be knackered. I owe her a lot.”
Not that it was all about football when growing up: “My mum always made sure school was important. She used to tell me to do well at school or she would stop taking me to football.”
Obadeyi’s progression with Coventry was so rapid that England youth honours soon arrived. International recognition and a return of a goal a game in England colours at Under-19 and Under-20 level brought with it interest from other clubs, with an eventual move to Bolton materialising.
“After getting the call-up for England, I got myself an agent who told me Bolton were interested,” revealed Obadeyi. “I sat down with my family and between us we decided that it was the right time to move.
“Every young footballers dreams of playing for a Premier League club and I was no different.
“I was living away from home for the first time which gave me some much needed independence. I became a man.”
What looked to be a fast-track move to the Premier League has become a frustrating experience that has seen him make just three senior appearances for Wanderers despite making his debut as a 19-year-old in a league match against Wigan in 2008. If possible, would the attacker turn the clock back and have stayed a Coventry player?
“It is quite frustrating when you see the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Scott Sinclair and Andy Carroll, all former England team-mates of mine, doing well for their respective clubs,” said Obadeyi, who has had loan spells at Swindon, Rochdale, Chesterfield and Shrewsbury.
“I have had four or five seasons in the reserves and there is only so much you can do. It’s not like I’ve played 50 or 100 senior games so you do get regrets. If I’d stayed at Coventry I’d have probably had more chances because they are in the Championship.”
Supporters of the second tier of English football could well become more familiar with Obadeyi in the future. Although keen to stay and prove his worth to Bolton, he has conceded that a drop down in level may be required to show the footballing world what he can do.
“There is no talk about me playing for the first team,” admitted Obadeyi. “I’m a reserve player.
“If the chance comes along to drop down to the Championship and play on a regular basis then I feel like I’ve got to take it.
“I’m 22-years-old now and I’m not getting any younger. I’m seeing players that I’ve come up through the ranks with succeeding for the respective clubs and I want to prove my ability.
“If the chance presents itself, why not?”
Whether it be at Bolton or elsewhere, you get the impression that Obadeyi will be making a name for himself sooner rather than later. If he keeps putting in consistent performances against United he may not need to drop down to the Championship either.