Leon Balogun Still in the Cold

first_imgAfter not featuring much for Brighton and Hove Albion last season, Leon Balogun had hoped to launch himself back to reckoning with a good outing at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, it was however not to be. He was a substitute in most of the matches and his only first start at the competition against Madagascar, his primary school error cost Super Eagles the game. With three matches into the new Premier League season, he is yet to feature for the Seagulls and has expressed his frustrationAfter having not featured at all for his English Premier League club this season, Brighton and Hove Albion, defender Leon Balogun has confessed his frustration and anger and the Super Eagles centre-back has revealed how he is dealing with the annoyance and frustrations that come with not playing regularly for his club, nevertheless admitting that he has to respect the decision of the manager.Maintaining that football is a collective game, the 2019 AFCON bronze medal winner says he’s however willing to sacrifice his game time for the good of the team. Brighton suffered a 2-0 loss to Southampton over the weekend, but Balogun was not involved despite the club’s manager Graham Potter preferring a three-man backline.Speaking with Brila FM, Balogun confessed that it gets tough sometimes but he is determined to stay unbroken by the situation. “I’m not happy about not playing as a regular, but then again, it’s about the collective thing and you have to respect the decision of the manager always.“It’s not always easy, am not going to lie. There are times when i’m angry but you have to try and stay in that positive mood and am a very optimistic person. I have to be patient, unfortunately again, but it’s nothing that will break me.”The 31-year-old defender, who is in the final year of his contract at Brighton, has struggled to feature regularly for the Seagulls since joining on a free transfer following the expiration of his contract with German Bundesliga side, Mainz 05 shortly before the 2018 Russia World Cup as he has failed to dislodge the centre-back pairing of Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk in the Brighton’s defence.Balogun made only 10 appearances for Brighton in his debut season and has been left out of the Graham Potter’s matchday squad in their opening three Premier League games this season.“On Leon Balogun, I think he should move to get regular playing time. We tell them sometimes that it’s better to play in a smaller club than to go to a big club in the Premier League and you don’t play.“He’s not getting any younger at 31 now, which means that if he’s not playing, it will be more difficult for him to be fit,” Super Eagles Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr expressed.After making just seven appearances for the Chris Hughton side last season, Balogun admitted: “It’s been difficult but that’s the manager’s call, I’ve just got to get on with it and hope for a chance. I really hope to play a significant role in my first Africa Nations Cup for Nigeria, but first I want to keep working hard to make a strong case for regular games at Brighton,” Balogun told BBC Sport.His dream of using the 2019 AFCON in Egypt as a launchpad did not come to pass, however, as his outing at the biennial competition was abysmal with his elementary error against debutant, Madagascar still fresh in the memory of most Nigerian soccer fans.Balogun indeed admits he must play regularly for his club if he’s to remain untouchable in the national team.“It’s very frustrating not to be involved but you can only keep your head up by focusing on helping the club when called upon. What is important is to always put myself in the right place as usual. If I am needed anytime to start a game or come in, I’ll be ready for that, it’s all I can do,” he said.When he moved to Premier League side after nine years of playing in the German League, he admitted it would not be a walk in the park donning the colours of the Seagulls as he has to fight for the shirt with the two central defenders already in the club fold- Dunk and Duffy. However, his opportunity came earlier than he expected as he came in as a substitute in just two weeks into the Premier League against Manchester United.Balogun indeed expressed delight with his home debut for Brighton & Hove Albion after he shone brilliantly for the homers.“Thanks everyone (Brighton & Hove Albion) for the warm welcome. Couldn’t really have wished for a better debut in the EPL, beating Manchester United at home!,” Balogun tweeted. “I had expected the Premier League to be quicker, but they told me this is always the kind of game you play against United. They like to slow it down a little bit sometimes,” the Nigerian defender said.The then Brighton manager, Hughton expressed his delight with Balogun’s debut performance.“In Balogun, you have someone you know won’t be phased. He’s played at a very good level and played in the World Cup this summer,” Hughton said then.Balogun’s central defence partner, Shane Duffy said he was delighted with Balogun, saying, “He’s fitted straight in. He’s a big character in the changing room. He’s got a big voice. He’s played with big players in big games. That’s why you bring in players like that. They push us. He was great. That’s another plus for us, that strength in depth with top players. You pick up injuries and suspensions so you need these kinds of players to step in.”However, the Super Eagles defender remains just a fringe player in the team.Balogun hasn’t made the sort of impact envisaged at Brighton. The Nigerian was expected to stroll into Hughton’s team after joining on a free transfer from Mainz in 2018.Despite an incredible career that has spanned over a decade, Balogun would have still felt like a little boy when he heard of Brighton’s interest last summer. England is favourite destination for African football tourists, especially Nigerians.It was a first-hand experience. The Bundesliga was all he knew. Born in Berlin to a Nigerian dad, the 30-year-old took his first footballing lessons at hometown club, Türkiyemspor Berlin. He then practiced his craft at five other Deutschland sides, including Werder Bremen.The Premier League is different. There’s more cash, quality players, odds and managers as well as better coverage. Balogun didn’t want to be left. He had no qualms moving abroad. That decision is already hurting the Nigerian.Balogun is the third choice in Hughton’scentre-back hierarchy behind Duffy and Dunk. He’s been featured nine times across all competitions albeit the only contribution was a screamer against Crystal Palace. While Hughton deserves some slack for the limited game time, Balogun is culpable too.Indeed, the Nigerian has an imposing physical presence, standing at 6ft 3. He is fearless in tackles and brave on the air. He provides additional threat during set pieces and could occasionally provide that odd goal to win games. However, Balogun isn’t gifted in terms of pace.At 31, the Nigerian doesn’t have age on his side. He must improve to break the Duffy-Dunk duopoly.Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegramlast_img read more