Player Profile: Chelsea’s Kenneth Omeruo

Any young player who breaks through within a football club’s exceedingly competitive ranks always deserves the recognition of his achievements. One Nigerian-born player has managed this feat by starring for his country without even playing a competitive game for the team that he is signed to!

Twenty-year old Kenneth Omeruo was born in Nigeria and spent time in the youth ranks at Belgian club Standard Liege, following trials with Anderlecht and Nigerian side Sunshine Stars. In 2012 he signed for Chelsea, who were keen for the Nigerian to accrue some big-game experience, and promptly loaned him out to a side in the Eredivisie, the top division of Dutch football, on an 18-month deal.

Although they qualified for the Europa League in 2011, ADO Den Haag haven’t traditionally been big players in the Eredivisie. However, Omeruo’s arrival in 2012 helped them to record successive ninth-place finishes in the league for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 season. He also made a unique mark on the record books as the only Eredivisie player to score a goal and an own goal, and be sent off within the same match!

The then-19 year old’s increasingly impressive performances would earn him a place in the Nigerian senior international team, having already played in the quarter-finals of the 2011 Under 20s World Cup played in Columbia and losing out to France in extra time. Omeruo took his place in the starting line-up at the Africa Cup of Nations and helped the Super Eagles to their first tournament win in 20 years thanks to a sparkling performance at the back.

Following the end of his deal in the Netherlands, Omeruo was brought back to England and loaned out again to Championship side Middlesbrough, where he put in fourteen appearances. On the back of these consistent performances, Omeruo has been named in Nigeria’s provisional squad for this summer’s World Cup in Brazil – a dream come true for any player let alone a mere 20-year old!

Any player who has played for several clubs on loan without having the chance to appear for their parent club can quite rightly feel frustrated about the lack of opportunities presented to them – but Omeruo has managed to keep a level head and seen his persistence pay off with the international rewards thanks to the coaching staff at each of his loan clubs.

Their experience of motivating young players to perform at their best every week is a testament to the coaching system; without the help of the loan clubs Omeruo would not have had the chance to make his mark on the league, let alone at international level. Such achievements in coaching are among those recognised by the Motors Most Deserving Sports Hero, which looks to reward those behind the scenes in shaping player and club development and wouldn’t necessarily get the recognition they deserve, despite the major role that youth development plays at all levels of sport.

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