Carl on his lengthy stay at Wolves so far - and hopes for success to come
As Carl Ikeme himself says, of his time at Wolves so far, “it has been a long journey, but an enjoyable one.”
And it is a journey now set to continue for a good while yet after the popular keeper signed a new two-and-a-half year contract, with a further year’s option.
Like many keepers, Ikeme is one of those who seems to have blossomed with age, particularly when it comes to Wolves.
A host of loan spells in his earlier career, not to mention some fairly lively competition with the other keepers to have graced the Molineux nets, meant he had to wait a long time for a sustained opportunity to show what he could do.
When that arrived, he duly answered the call, and has been the number one choice for almost all of the last four-and-a-half years.
“There have been discussions going on for a while and I am delighted to get it sorted,” says the Birmingham-born 30-year-old.
“I can concentrate on the rest of the season now and my future here at Wolves.
“This is my club, and I always wanted to stay.
“When it gets towards Christmas you do wonder if there will be an agreement but I’ve always been speaking with Kevin and was confident something will get sorted.
“You do worry a little bit and wonder if you might have to move on but I never wanted to move on.
“I have been here since I was 14 or 15 so as soon as I knew the club wanted to do something I was happy and wanted to get it sorted.”
Much water has passed under the bridge since Ikeme signed his first forms as a full-time scholar, wondering just what was to follow, whether he would make it.
He did make it, showing a commitment and dedication to hard work that allowed his goalkeeping talents, and a mentality to emerge stronger from the many obstacles put in his way.
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“I still remember signing here for the first time as a 16-year-old, signing as a scholar at Molineux with everyone else,” he says.
“That was a big day for me.
“It was a lot different then, and you never know what the future is going to hold!
“In those early days you just think about surviving at the club and then as time goes on you start thinking you can actually do it.
“I am just glad that I have stayed here throughout my career so far.
“I feel like I know the club and I know everyone here.
“It has been a long journey but an enjoyable one.
“I know some people sometimes feel they need to leave a club to have a fresh and new challenge.
“But for me all those challenges are here, and I am looking forward to kicking on.
“How have I survived at Wolves for so long? You don’t get anywhere without working hard.
“That has always been ingrained in me.
“At 16 or 17 I would go in the gym in the evenings and I have always been one who wants to do extra stuff with the goalkeeping coaches.
“I have just always that hunger to keep improving and that has stood me in good stead in the long run.
“Football is about hard work, dedication and the sacrifices that I have made and my Mum and Dad have made in getting me to football as a youngster.
It has all paid off.
“I have had to be patient at times and maybe occasions when I thought I might have to leave because Wolves have always had such strong goalkeepers.
“But I always wanted to number one here.
“You have ups and downs during the years but I have always stayed positive.
“Whenever I feel I am on a bit of a downer it is about then working even harder than you were before.”
Competition for the Wolves’ goalkeeping jersey has been fierce throughout Ikeme’s time as a senior player at Wolves.
He lost his place to on-loan Emi Martinez for a spell last season, and knows that with the experience of Andy Lonergan, and promise of Harry Burgoyne and Jon Flatt, there is no time for any dip in standards now.
“Competition is something you have in football all the time and something I have had to deal with since I was 16,” he insists.
“I always want to play, like anyone.
“I wouldn’t say I accept things now, but I can see everyone’s point of view.
“For example last season when Emi came in, the situation was it was and I had to get my head down and work through it.
“I feel I have probably grown up at that club and a lot of the youngsters are probably looking up to me now.
“And I want to help them when I can because I want them to go on and enjoy the experiences that I have had as well.
“Being here, and going through all the ups and downs, has made me closer to the club.
“It makes me feel appreciation for the club, football in general, and life as well.
“I have grown up with Wolves, and that has changed my persona on everything in life.
“I feel like I get on with all the staff here, and I have a good relationship with the fans.
“It’s not the end though! I am still only 30 and have a lot more I want to achieve.
“When Wolves were promoted last time from the Championship I didn’t really play that many games and then I didn’t play when we got there.
“My ambition is to play Premier League football with Wolves and that is what I am working towards.
“And with Nigeria as well, I want to get to the World Cup in 2018.
“Those are my main long-term aspirations.
“But for me now the focus is on this season and pushing on.
“With the new gaffer in, he has had a positive impact on everyone in the squad and so hopefully we can start climbing that table.”
It has been well-documented that one of the ‘downs’ of Ikeme’s time at Wolves came when he injured himself in punching the tactics board in frustration at half time of a game with Bristol City almost four years ago now.
Time has moved on, but that incident lingers, and Ikeme discusses it at length in his interview with Wolves Player HD after signing his contract. (to be broadcast later).
Looking back, he has still managed to turn that literally painful disappointment into a positive, and believes he can now channel his determination and aggression in a far more positive way thanks to his experience.
“I know it was the wrong thing to do, and I have learned from it,” he admits.
“At the time I think it was an accumulation of many different things, and frustration at a lot of things going on and the position we were in.
“But even though it was the wrong thing to do, it shows how much I care about the club and what happens.
“I cared then, and I care now, I've been here since I was 15 years of age and that is something I am proud of.
“I've got good relationships here with everyone, including the fans, and under the new gaffer I feel the club is moving in the right direction.
"I'm looking forward to being a part of that in the future."
How have I survived at Wolves for so long? You don’t get anywhere without working hard