In September, Nnamdi Ofoborh set out for the latest chapter of his football career, joining Wycombe Wanderers on loan for the season while still just a teenager.
The Londoner’s experiences have included an early red card, a promotion chase and a first senior goal among 22 first-team showings for the Chairboys in League One, his first appearances in senior football.
The Nigeria under-20 international caught up with afcb.co.uk to talk about his top five learnings during his invaluable loan spell away from the Cherries.
1. MAKING A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION
At first I was nervous going into a whole new changing room, I realised quickly that like at Bournemouth I was still the youngest, the baby of the team!
When I played my first game we won 3-1 at home to Lincoln and that took us to the top of the league. I got thrown straight into the deep end of a promotion race and games that mean so much, that was something I could only dream of.
Everyone says going out on loan is a learning experience, but it actually has been. You learn all the things from training with the first team at Bournemouth and then you go out and try to implement them.
It’s been amazing playing in front of crowds, having your name on the back of your shirt, your family coming to watch, going to places like Ipswich, Sunderland, Portsmouth, it’s been massive.
2. SEEING RED IN HIS THIRD EVER MATCH
I’ve never been sent off, ever, in my entire career! I was even thinking to myself a couple of days later, ‘You chose this time for your first red card?’
The moment went so fast, I’ve made 100 tackles worse than that one, but I’ve watched it back so many times and it looks awful.
At the time, on the pitch, he tried to play it inside and I’ve gone to block it but my following leg has taken him out, I went in with too much aggression.
When I got up I couldn’t hear anything, there were players pushing and as I looked towards the ref he already had his card out, everything just happened in the blink of an eye, before I knew it I was down the tunnel, back in the changing room.
The gaffer, Gareth Ainsworth, wasn’t happy, even though we won the game, but he said he actually didn’t mind it in some ways, that normally young loan players come in and don’t show aggression or passion.
My team-mates said that even the best players in the world have had red cards, I’m not the first, and we were still top of the league.
Straight after the game Carl Fletcher called me and he laughed, saying ‘Nnams, what have you done?’ Eddie Howe called me and said that it’s football, but that he was happy I was out on loan and enjoying my time.
Those conversations meant a lot to me because at the time, mentally I was struggling to come to grips with being sent off and letting the team down. I’m a really passionate person when it comes to football so it did make me very emotional for the next three or four weeks, that was tough.
3. PLAYING ON THE BIG STAGE
One thing I say to my friends is that everyone likes playing at home, I do too, but I love games away. I like being the villain and spoiling the party.
Playing at Pompey this season, the tunnel’s really narrow and it’s such a hostile environment, as we came out there were 20,000 fans and that is exactly what I’ve been dreaming of doing.
Pompey are not a small team, in my eyes they’re still a Premier League team, I was walking out thinking ‘Drogba’s played here, Lampard and Ronaldo have played here’.
We played at Bolton and I was so excited, I’ve seen teams win the Premier League there, Rooney scoring hat-tricks and Jay-Jay Okocha, those stadiums mean a lot to me and I embraced it. I wasn’t nervous, that is where I want to be.
4. ADAPTING TO THE DIFFERENCE IN FOOTBALL
It took me a while to adapt to be fair. At Bournemouth I know where my team-mates will be, what balls they’ll be available for, but sometimes I had to flip that. It’s not always about playing possession and looking good, it’s about doing the job that you need to do to win the game.
Home or away with Bournemouth we play the same way, but with Wycombe it’s different. You might go away looking for a point, that’s a whole new dynamic.
It’s shown me different sides to football, it’s not just about playing out from the back and through the thirds, sometimes you need to try a different route. When I come back to Bournemouth, if a different route is needed I’ll now know how to implement that.
It’s about understanding that you don’t have to be the standout guy every game, about communicating on the pitch and how you speak to your team-mates.
Now I’ve gone from a boy who had no games to a man who’s played in League One, and when I come back I need to show that I’m not the same little boy anymore.
5. THE LOCKDOWN EXPERIENCE
At the start of the lockdown Eddie Howe called me, asked how the family was and how I was doing. I’ve been speaking to Wycombe but with League One up in the air with what’s going to happen I’ve been on the fence not knowing what will happen with me as well.
I’ve not spent this much time at home with my family in years. I’ve been thinking about getting an exercise bike for the house so that everyone can use it, but actually, running around the Lewisham area where I’m from is more therapeutic for me.
It’s crazy, I moved out four years ago and running around now I see buildings that weren’t there before, wonder where a block of flats has gone, it feels like a whole new area and I’ve enjoyed running and seeing my area again.
Everyone needs to be safe, that’s the main priority before football, right now I’m itching to play, but wherever I’m playing next that’s where I’ll be giving my all.
Thank you to PRiME Media Images for the photos appearing here.