Yakubu makes scoring debut for Blackburn as Rovers reap the rewards of a new start

The two goals from Yakubu for Blackburn Rovers in their 4-3 win over Arsenal on Saturday mark the second consecutive club debut that has seen the Nigerian get on the score sheet. In 2007, Yakubu marked his Everton bow with a goal in a 2-1 victory against Bolton Wanderers, and the ensuing season, in which Yakubu scored 21 goals, was the most prolific of the striker’s career, but his time at Goodison Park never again lived up to those heights.

A serious injury in November 2008 hampered Yakubu’s attempts to get back to the level of his first campaign in a blue shirt. When finally fit again, Yakubu toiled but only managed seven goals in 51 games – having scored 21 in 39 in his first year as an Everton player. For the time before the injury, however, Yakubu was lethal. Able to impart devastating power into a shot with little or no back-lift, boasting an uncanny positional sense to drift away from defenders, and a physical strength that belied his average height, Yakubu looked every inch the complete striker, and the brace on his Rovers introduction suggests the 28-year-old can rediscover something of that form.

It is often said the key to getting the best out of Yakubu is to keep him fit – indeed, more than one report on his performance asked the question: “What might Yakubu achieve once he sheds a few pounds?” In truth, Yakubu has always been barrel-chested, and anyone waiting for that to change will be waiting a long time. The song that welcomed a Yakubu goal at Goodison Park – “Feed the Yak and he will score” – was not only a variation on the tune Manchester City supporters used to serenade Shaun ‘the Goat’ Goater, but also an acknowledgement of the heft of the striker. That the song was heard so often around Goodison Park during Yakubu’s first season on Merseyside indicates that whatever his fitness, it did little to hold him back.

That, however, was before the ruptured Achilles tendon that left Yakubu on the sidelines for nearly a full year. After that, perhaps unsurprisingly, the burst of speed had gone and the previously Herculean strength was missing. With only clever movement left in his armoury, the goals dried up upon Yakubu’s return to the first team. A lack of goals bred a lack of faith from the manager, which in turn bred a lack of interest from the player. It was a vicious circle interrupted only by a loan spell at Leicester City, where Yakubu netted 11 times in 20 games. A league played at a slightly slower pace than the Premier League enabled Yakubu to settle in, and the opportunity to play regularly brought confidence, and with confidence, goals. The Foxes were keen to make the move permanent but could not agree a fee with Everton.

Leicester’s loss appears to be Blackburn’s gain. The benefits of a fresh start were shown by Yakubu’s prolific spell in the Championship, and a side that plays to his strengths is likely to reap the rewards. Yakubu, even in his Goodison pomp, was accused of laziness by some supporters, but, as Blackburn have found already, no one accused him of being goal shy.

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