The Nigeria shot-stopper completed his dream move to England in the summer but he is the first to admit it has not gone according to plan
Super Eagles goalkeeper Maduka Okoye has confessed he is finding it hard to adapt to the physical rigours of English football, hinting that he could be tempted with a return to the Netherlands in the new year.
Okoye became Nigeria’s most expensive goalkeeper in history when Watford paid five million euros to sign him from Sparta Rotterdam in January.
The youngster spent the rest of the campaign with the Dutch side and arrived at the Vicarage Road in the summer with hopes of being the Hornets’ first-choice goalie.
But Austria goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann has been preferred as Watford’s number one for the 2022/2023 season, leaving Okoye to spend more minutes on the bench than on the pitch.
What has been said?
Okoye admits going to England was an intentional choice even when regular playing time was not guaranteed.
But the 23-year-old admits it is quite tough to accept being second fiddle in a club in the Championship.
“I made the step to England with my full mind,” Okoye told VoetbalPrimeur. “I was told that I had to compete with the other keepers for a place under the crossbar.”
“Every goalkeeper who goes from the Netherlands to England has some starting problems. I was also told that I will have the time and space to adapt to the level and to a new country and new competition, so that I can eventually make the move. Some things are different in England than in the Netherlands, just take the physical difference.
“Sports-wise it hasn’t worked out as I had hoped, but we’re sticking to the plan . No, it’s certainly not easy. It’s quite tough, I have to tell you very honestly. At Sparta I played every week and now I’m on the couch, that was something I had to get used to. Then you come home with a different feeling than when you play every week, get balls out of the goal and get compliments. But that is also football and is just part of it. “
Any regret leaving Sparta?
Okoye spent only two years at Sparta Rotterdam but it was enough time to rise to become one of the most highly rated goalkeepers in the Eredivisie and the Super Eagles number goalie.
The Düsseldorf-born shot-stopper made 61 appearances for Sparta, 58 of which were in the Dutch top flight.
But Okoye insists he could not have continued at tge club for ever and that gaining promotion with Watford remains the ultimate target this season.
“I am still 100 percent behind my transfer, because I did well in the Eredivisie and of course could not stay with Sparta forever,” he said.
“I just keep working hard and want to show myself. We hope to be promoted to Watford with the Premier League. It’s going to be difficult, but we keep believing in it.”
All is not set in stone, however, as the winter transfer window opens on January 1.
While the dream remains to be a success in England, Okoye refuses to close the door on a temporsry return to the Netherlands.
“We’ll see what happens,” he adds.
“My contract runs until 2027, so anything is possible. Maybe I will be rented out, or not, I don’t know yet.
“The Eredivisie? Yes, that sounds like something to me.
“The clubs in the Netherlands know me well from Sparta and know what they can do with me. We’ll see. For now I’m just focusing completely on Watford and the games we’re going to play.”