What do football clubs from Yeovil, Doncaster, Carlisle, Exeter and Dagenham have in common? They’ve all been promoted from the Conference National since the beginning of the 21st century and have all gone on to gain at least one more promotion and establish themselves as solid Football League sides. Their models for life in the league will doubtless have been scrutinised by the management, players and fans of Stevenage FC, who after enjoying their romp to the Conference title last term will hope to make waves instead of just making up numbers in their first ever season as one of England’s elite 92 sides. If the Hertfordshire club are to enjoy continued success, having a striker on form to bag the goals to fire them up the League Two table will be vital. That man could well be Yemi Odubade.
Odubade celebrates with teammate Andy Drury
Having just turned 26, Odubade is getting towards the age at which many footballers’ careers peak, and although he is by no means a household name, he is likely to draw more than a few appreciative glances as Stevenage travel up and down the country over the next nine months. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, he first arrived in English football with Sussex County League club Eastbourne Town as a teenager in 2001. He excelled at the seaside, putting his stocky, muscular build to very good use, with his pace, power and composure even at such a young age far too much for amateur defenders to handle. His goals for Town, 64 in 85 games, caught the attention of League Two side Yeovil in 2004, and he made the move to Somerset after a successful trial. The twenty year-old Odubade never made a significant first team breakthrough at Huish Park though and moved back to Eastbourne less than a year later, this time signing for his former club’s more illustrious neighbours and rivals Eastbourne Borough who were about to start their first campaign in the newly formed Conference South, the sixth level of the English footballing pyramid.
Once again life was good for Odubade in the holiday town as he averaged a very impressive goal every other game that season, netting on nineteen occasions in total and enjoying a run to the first round proper of the FA Cup. Borough met League Two outfit Oxford United in the competition, holding them to a draw and forcing the tie to a replay. Odubade impressed Oxford manager Brian Talbot across both matches and was snapped up by him for a fee of £25,000 the next summer. Oxford had just been relegated to the Conference and Odubade took his chance at the level. Three years, 145 games, 32 goals and one player of the year award later, he was released by The Us, primarily for financial reasons, and signed for Stevenage. He is held in very high regard by the Oxford fans and, as they also witnessed their side win promotion to League Two last season, he is sure to be given a warm reception by them when the two clubs meet for the first time in the Football League on Boxing Day.
Odubade shields the ball
Odubade’s 2009/10 season, his first with Stevenage, was an unequivocal success as he found the net on sixteen occasions, including a fine hat-trick against Barrow. This tally, made all the more impressive when it is considered that he did not become a regular starter in Graham Westley’s side until last November, was enough to make Odubade Stevenage’s top marksman as they won the Conference with a magnificent 99 points, denied the magic 100 only after bankrupt Chester City’s results, which included two losses against Stevenage, were expunged from the records.
There are a number of characteristics that make a top forward and Odubade has them all. He’s renowned for his pace, is strong, shows considerable composure with the goal in his sights and has a leap that belies his 5’7″ frame, allowing him to cause many far taller defenders problems in the air. On top of this, he demonstrated with his key role in Stevenage’s Conference success that he has a cutting edge and will to win. He even tasted League Two promotion with Yeovil five years ago despite only appearing four times for the Glovers. Who’s to say that Stevenage won’t follow in the footsteps of Yeovil, Doncaster, Carlisle and the rest by pushing on from the Conference to achieve Football League Glory? With Odubade on his game fans everywhere will take notice and they will have every chance of doing so. Yemi Odubade – remember the name.