In a parallel universe, players like this lad would move from Inter Milan to the lower echelons of the English game. Oh what? It actually happened? Well then …
I don’t think there’s a single Birmingham City fan alive today who can honestly say they expected the Obafemi Martins transfer in 2011. Partly because it was a surprise that a player of his calibre would join The Blues at the time (no offence, btw), but also given the circumstances shrouding his hush-hush move to St Andrews.
You know what, maybe I’m being unfair to fans of Birmingham City, so let’s change it up a bit. In recent years, financial mismanagement and poor ownership has resulted in one of the bigger West Midlands clubs fallen down the leagues – which is something no team deserves, leave alone a support group as fanatic and dependable as them. And being completely impartial and tunnel-visioned, their squad back then was pretty darn tidy.
Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t in anywhere near the position of challenging for league titles or even to qualify for the yearly European competitions, but in terms of trying to scathe of relegation and even holding their own in the midriff of the Premier League, they ought to have been more than capable of earning that status this year.
In goal, they had ex-Manchester United and future Go-Pro enthusiast Ben Foster – find out more about him here – in front of him, the duo of Roger Johnson and Scott Dann (both future EPL stalwarts), Seb Larsson in midfield, Barry Ferguson leading the way, Cameron Jerome up top. All among a number of others around this similar stature of topflight English league experience, and adding Obafemi Martins to the list was a mouth-watering prospect.
We’ve spoken about the precocious Nigerian before at Ultra UTD, more so focusing on his emergence onto the scene as the pacy forward alongside Adriano and Milito for Inter Milan in the earlier 2000’s, but beyond that, he went onto Newcastle United to form a decent trio with Michael Owen and Mark Viduka, and was now looking for a new place to set up shop in this new phase in his life.
A phase which happened to coincide with the birth of his latest child in England (and therefore developing a desire to remain close to the British Isles to be closer with his family), Obafemi Martins became a shock last-minute January loan for Birmingham City en route to what was a steady EPL campaign …
… and with a League Cup run which was slowly gathering pace.
Surprising everyone even more than the Martins loan was Birmingham’s doggedness and drive which took them to the most unlikely of ‘Carling Cup’ final fixtures against Arsenal towards the end of the 2011 season. And even more so, was when Nikola Zigic nodded them in front just shy of the 30th minute with a simple header passed a younger, more pimply Wojciech Szczęsny.
Celebrations were initially quelled with an equally simple, though more trademark Robin van Persie volley ten minutes later. Then, for the rest of the match, it’s fair to say that it was a deluge on the poor Ben Foster in goal. Whose acrobatics kept the game perched at 1-1, with the game seeming to be headed for extra time.
Instead, a goalmouth scramble fell to the welcoming left boot of Obafemi Martins who had the presence of mind to quickly get his shot off and sweep it home. He describes it as “the easiest goal I’ve ever scored in my life”.
But regardless of how easy it was, it’s among the fondest of memories held by every breathing Brummie in town.