When Victor Anichebe was excluded from the 23-man list for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa by, Lars Lagerback many cried foul over the exclusion of the one-time Everton striker on the pretext that he was nursing an injury, which his club coach denied. And by the next Mundial in Rio four years later, his wish to don the colours of the national team did not attract sympathy from fans; even as spate of injuries denied him of regular shirt in his club. It therefore came as little surprise when Anichebe on Mondayannounced his departure from West Bromwich Albion. In this report Kunle Adewale writes on next move for the former Nigerian internationals.
Victor Anichebe on Monday announced he would be leaving West Bromwich Albion when his contract expires next month. He wrote on Twitter. “Thank you to all the WBAFC official fans for the support during my time at the club! I wish you all the best for the future.”
The 28-year-old signed from Everton in September 2013, played 63 times for West Brom, scoring nine goals. He started just three Premier League games this season and failed to score a single goal after appearing in 14 matches in all competitions.
A former Nigerian international, Paul Okoku, said he was not surprised by the decision of Anichebe to exit West Brom.
“Anichebe had all the potentials to be a great player but injury never allowed him. If you look at the way he started, if not for persistent injury, he would have been one of the top players in world football today. Any other player would have bowed out long ago, but not Anichebe. He is a fighter and really gave it a real fight. But what one can one do when a nagging injury would not allow you to play?
“Anybody that has been following his career would not be really surprised by his decision to go as a free agent. He hadn’t had time to play this season. It is a shame that injury did not allow him to do what he knows how to do best. Maybe the Super Eagles would have fared better in their last two World Cup with a fully fit Anichebe in their fold,” the 1984 Africa Cup of Nations silver winner told Global Soccer.
The striker, who departs as a free agent, has struggled to hold down a place under Tony Pulis and started only three Premier League games this season. His uninterested demeanour and despondent body language has often been more telling than his contributions to the team.
He was the star of the show in the 1-0 win over Newcastle in December, on what was his first Premier League start of the season. But he was a pale imitation of that player and virtually anonymous in the 1-0 defeat at St James’ Park less than two months later. Anichebe was equally as lethargic during cameos from the bench at Southampton and more recently at Sunderland. His last appearance in Albion stripes was in the 1-0 defeat at home to Watford on April 16.
Much was expected when Steve Clarke signed him for a fee reportedly rising to £6 million in September 2013. But the former Everton trainee endured a slow start to his career at the Hawthorns and did not score in his first eight games.
The powerful forward hit a purple patch midway through the campaign, scoring three goals in seven games. He never kicked on and ended the season without a goal in his last nine matches.
In the summer of 2014, Anichebe underwent surgery for a persistent groin injury that would hamper him during the 2014/15 campaign. The injury flared up in December 2014, but he shrugged it off and appeared to enjoy a new lease of life when Pulis was appointed as Alan Irvine’s successor and scored in the 7-0 FA Cup hammering of Gateshead in January 2015, in what was Pulis’ first game in full control of the team.
Anichebe bagged a brace later that month in the 2-1 cup win at local rivals Birmingham City in what was arguably the pinnacle of his Albion career.
Pulis picked him on a regular basis and used him as a substitute in the first game of the 2015/16 season. But the Welshman was not enamoured with Anichebe’s overall fitness as evidenced in his exile from the team.
Big Vic was not seen again until late September when he started the 3-0 Capital One Cup defeat at Norwich as a holding midfielder. Another three months elapsed before Anichebe, capped 11 times by his country, returned to the pitch against Newcastle.
A flurry of substitute appearances materialised early in 2016, but Anichebe did little to rescue his career or earn a new contract.
Popular with his teammates if not the fans, Anichebe leaves having scored nine goals in 63 games.
Before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, former national team coach, Stephen Keshi, was toying with the idea of persuading Anichebe to end his international exile and the former Everton man was then not ruling out a comeback for the finals in Brazil.
“Right now I’m playing well, feeling fit, strong and helping my team in the situation we are currently in at the moment. If I continue to play well from now to the end of the season then we can take it from there. I’m grateful the coach says he is willing to give me a chance, but I think everybody in Nigeria and around the world knows what I can do. Yes, the World Cup only comes once every four years and it could be my last opportunity – this is something I’m aware of but I haven’t spoken to anybody,” Anichebe has said.
In his last appearance for the Super Eagles, a 2-0 win over Madagascar in 2011, he suffered a groin problem. Since then he opted to concentrate on securing regular first-team football at club level. That decision led to criticisms from some Nigerian supporters but Anichebe rejected suggestions that he did not care about his country.
“I believe I have some good fans in Nigeria that understood and respected my decision to concentrate on getting fit. Some players would have just joined the team, not in great condition but for personal gains. I see the bigger picture in things and it’s worked for me. Nigeria also won the Nations Cup in 2013 and we got to discover other talents that we may not have got the chance to see.
“So any ‘fan’ that sees me as unpatriotic is just being unfair because if you check the meaning of patriotism it’s the love and devotion you show for your country and I love Nigeria. I grew up in England but only see myself as a Nigerian and my long-term objective is a lot bigger than this because I hope to give back to my country.
“Football has given me a great platform but my aim is to help young people in Nigeria, so to say I’m not patriotic is ludicrous,” he said.
Anichebe is also keen to make it clear he did not withdraw from international duty because he failed to make the World Cup squad four years earlier.
“I must commend the players that got Nigeria to this year’s World Cup because I did the same thing a few years ago.
But then I played a friendly game and got man of the match in nearly every newspaper in Nigeria yet I still didn’t go to South Africa, which was a shame and a great disappointment. But I held no grudges and still returned to play for Nigeria before I suffered an injury. What happened in 2010 showed that some decisions obviously have no logic but that’s life at times.
“The break has helped me to stay fit and enabled Nigeria the chance to discover other players,” the player cited.
Born in Lagos, Anichebe was raised in Liverpool. He made his Nigeria debut in 2008 after switching allegiance from England but missed out on selection for the 2010 World Cup.