Social media abuzz over Nigeria trio EPL promotion

From the days of Efan Ekoku to the era of Nwankwo Kanu, Austin Okocha, Yakubu Aiyegbeni to the present days of Alex Iwobi, Taiwo Awoniyi and others, Nigeria has produced some iconic names who have played in the English Premier League.

Whether or not they represent Nigeria, their identities can’t be taken away and most times, the players also do not shy away from their Nigerian roots. And largely because of these players, most of the clubs enjoy huge followership from the most populous country in Africa.

The just-concluded 2022/23 season had eight Nigerians in five clubs, but the relegation waters swept away Paul Onuachu and Joe Aribo (Southampton) as well as Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Nididi (Leicester City), leaving the likes of Alex Iwobi (Everton), Frank Onyeka (Brentford), Emmanuel Dennis and Taiwo Awoniyi (Brentford) in the most watched league in the world.

While it remains to be seen if any other Premier League side would be interested in the services of the four relegated Super Eagles stars, Nigerians have found a new love in newly-promoted Luton Town, which parade three players of Nigerian descent in their set up. The trio Elijah Adebayo, Gabriel Osho and Fred Onyedinma all helped Luton gain promotion to the Premier League for the first time in their history.

The Hatters secured a place in the Premier League for next season on Saturday when they defeated Coventry City 6-5 on penalties at Wembley. Adebayo and Osho started for the Bedfordshire-based side, while Onyedinma entered the game as a substitute in the 84th minute.

Striker Adebayo scored Luton’s only goal in their 2-1 loss to Sunderland in the first leg of the semi-finals of the Championship playoffs and assisted their only goal against Coventry City in the final. The 25-year-old played 42 games in the regular Championship season, scoring eight goals and assisting five times.

Centre-back Osho, on the other hand, scored Luton’s first goal in their 2-0 win over Sunderland in the second leg of the semi-finals of the playoffs. He also featured 30 times in the Championship and bagged two goals.

Capable of playing in the midfield and at left-back, Onyedinma played 17 games during the Championship season and assisted twice for the newly promoted Premier League side.

As the trio will be hoping they are in the plans of manager Rob Edwards as they start their campaign in the English topflight next season, Nigerians are already flocking behind the club, who must first spend about £10m to upgrade their 10,000-capacity stadium to EPL standards.

Both Adebayo and Onyedima were pictured in celebration with the Nigerian flag, and to many, it didn’t matter if they won’t represent Nigeria, but it was heartwarming to see them identify with their origin.

“They know that they may never represent us, yet they rock us. This is true patriotism. Well-done kings and congratulations to you guys,” Edgar Alani on Twitter.

“I checked the player profile while the match was ongoing and it displayed England and not Nigeria. But I’m glad to see them with the Nigerian flag. Aribo and Paul go down, Onyedinma, Osho and Adebayo come up,” Jide Oluwalana also wrote.

However, Onyedima’s profile reads Nigerian footballer as he was born in Lagos, while Osho and Adebayo were born in the UK. None of the trio has played for England at the youth level as well.

For someone like Wells Ambrose, their celebration sparked a sense of unity, and coincidentally as the country was transitioning from one President to another.  He said, “Igbo and Yoruba running together with Nigeria flag, what we love to see, one love Nigeria.

“If there is any other team to support it is surely Luton. They’ve progressed so admirably and it also means Nigerians will be yearning to know everything about the club at all possible outlets.”

An on-air personality, Isaac Afolabi, said, “Nigerians naturally have a soft spot for any club with Nigerians, so it’s certain there are auxillary fans of Luton Town FC among all the fans of Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal and others in Nigeria.”

As Luton begin to prepare for life in the English topflight, Nigerian fans are excited about the prospect of seeing more of their players in the EPL and as usual, it’s only a matter of time before they begin to clamour for their invitation to the national team.

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