Defender enjoying Wolves challenge
To say that Hakeem Odoffin is enjoying his time at Wolves would be an understatement.
Despite only signing for the club from Barnet in January, Odoffin has made a big impression in Scott Sellars’ Under 21 squad, with his marauding forward runs from right back being a regular feature of their matches. And that is something Odoffin frequently works on.
“I’ve always liked going forward, but I don’t mind getting back as well,” he says.
“If I can get a goal then great, but I know that at the end of the day I’m still a defender and I must make sure that I steady myself.
“But I do enjoy getting up and down and if I can help the team by scoring or assisting then great.”
Those forward runs paid off in the Under 21’s match with West Ham in February, when Odoffin’s 83rd minute equaliser secured a point for his team. It was Odoffin’s first goal in Wolves colours and one he cherishes.
He recalls: ”I remember that well, it was a great feeling.
“It was full back to full back, Ben O’Hanlon was playing left back and put a cross in and I managed to stick a leg out and it’s gone in the bottom corner.”
Odoffin made seven appearances for the Under 21’s in the Barclays Under 21 Premier League and, despite the team having a difficult season, he has relished the challenge.
He said: “You have to get used to it, because when you’re playing in those games you’re playing against players who’ve played hundreds of league games.
“They’ve got league experience.
“It’s always a tough battle going out there, because there’s a lot of quality that you’re playing against but I think I’ve dealt with it well and I enjoy it, as it makes you a better player.”
Playing regular matches for the Under 21’s has been part of the process which has helped Odoffin settle in Wolverhampton.
He sees the club as a family, a view endorsed by the fact that he shares accommodation with teammates Connor Ronan, Connor Johnson and Jordan Allan, and it was the sense of family that convinced him to make the transfer from Barnet.
Recalling his transfer Odoffin said: “It was a big decision, but in football you get opportunities and sometimes you just have to have confidence in yourself to take the opportunities.
“I remember they took me on a tour of the stadium and I saw all the history and the family values, and it was really impressive - I was really looking forward to signing.”
So how did the transfer come about?
“They [Wolves’ scouts] must have seen me in a match for Barnet a couple of months before, and I didn’t know about it [their interest] until two or three months later.
“The person who was representing me just said he’s not going to tell me who or if there was any interest and to keep concentrating on my football.
“Then one of my Barnet teammates saw it on his phone, and I checked it out as soon as I got home.
“It was in the paper!”
And the rest as they say, is history.
Like at Wolves Odoffin made an impression at Barnet, where he made two first team appearances, including one in the FA Cup Second Round against Newport County last December.
“That experience was really good,” he recalls.
“I’m grateful for Martin Allen giving me the chance and it was a really good moment in my short career.
“I was really proud of that moment.”
Another moment to be proud of took place earlier this month when Odoffin was nominated as one of the ‘Apprentices of the Year’ at the Football League awards. And ,like his bow in the FA Cup it’s an occasion Odoffin will never forget, and one he wants to experience again in the future.
He said: “I found out about it about three or four weeks before the awards, the nomination was to do with the work on and off the pitch and when I found out I was really excited.
“My Mum was really proud as well.
“It was a really good night, I had to wear a suit! I saw all of the players from the team of the year.
“It was really inspirational and it motivates you to work towards that.”
Recent training sessions with the first team as well as the Under 21’s will with help Odoffin with that and his ambition of playing for Wolves’ first team.
He said: “I’ve been working with the first team, it’s been really good seeing them and the standard and it’s something I strive towards, because that’s where I want to be.
“I think getting game time is definitely the most important thing and if you’re able to play first team football against men that’s a plus as well.
“I’m looking forward to it and make sure I put in the performances that get me noticed whether it’s in the first team here or elsewhere, I’m going to do my best.”
For now, though, Odoffin’s immediate focus is preparing for the Bitzer Cup a post-season tournament held in Germany, of which Wolves are reigning champions. And Odoffin is keen to make another good impression.
He said: “I’m really looking forward to that. When I was at Reading and Tottenham, I did something similar but that was a while ago. But that tournament feeling, going abroad and playing football I can’t wait.
“We have to be able to live up to the standard they set last year, so the standards are high.”