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Folami: Defeat Tough to Take But Grateful to Be Back in the First Team
Wednesday, 13th Nov 2019 11:19

Striker Ben Folami admitted last night’s 1-0 Trophy defeat at Colchester was tough to take but was grateful to have been given another first-team opportunity by manager Paul Lambert after a wait of 19 months and was pleased with the way he and his team-mates performed against a more senior U’s side.

Folami, 20, made his last appearance for the first team - and so far his only league start - in the 4-0 win at Reading in the penultimate game of 2017/18 under caretaker-boss Bryan Klug but wasn’t involved with the senior side at all last season before suffering a torn achilles in the U23s in January. In total, he has now made three senior starts and three sub appearances.

“It was a hard one to take,” The Sydney-born frontman said when asked about the loss to the U's following the game.

“The manner in which we conceded the goal was quite freakish, but I think the performance we put in as a team was very positive at the end of the day.

“For us to stick together as a team for as long as we did with all the young players we had out there and all the inexperience we had, I think it’s a credit to us.”

Folami admitted he was feeling it a bit at the end: “Yes, very tired, I can’t lie. That’s only my seventh or eighth 90-minute match. The more 90-minute matches I play, the better for me, so I was happy I was able to get another 90 minutes in the bank.”

He says he found out he was in line to play at the weekend: “I think it was Sunday. I was called up to train with the first team and they said I was definitely going to be involved for this game against Colchester.”

Folami says it’s not been easy being out of the first-team scene for so long: “Yes, it’s been tough for me. I was here when Paul Hurst came in, I was in the picture, then I was out of the picture quite quickly.

“And then the injury happened, but I’m over the injury and I’m just looking to kick-on from here and hopefully get more game time with the first team.”

He admits the time out injured was tough: “Yes, it was a terrible time. I’m over it now, which is good, I’m only looking ahead. The achilles is fine, it’s 100 per cent good and I’m just aiming to play more games for the first team.

“And it’s definitely something I’ve learned from. Being out injured for so long, it’s tough, it can get lonely but I’m just happy to be here now and I’m happy I got through it, and thanks to the physio staff.”

He says it’s been a long way back after going under the knife having suffered the injury while in action for the U23s at Cardiff.

“The surgery was the start of this year, it was 16th January,” he recalled. “I think it was eight months until I played a game. I was in rehab for seven months and I needed a month of training to get back to games.

“It happened in a game against Cardiff for the U23s in January. I just went to take off and it went. That was pretty much it.”

He says all is now fine with the injury: “No problems, credit to the physio staff for helping me get through that, Scott Baxter and Jimmy Reynolds, it’s behind me now so I’m very grateful for that.”

Folami is aware there is an opportunity on the fringes of the first team behind first-choice pair James Norwood and Kayden Jackson at present with Jordan Roberts out with a toe injury and Will Keane yet to hit full fitness after his summer hamstring surgery.

“Yes, 100 per cent,” he reflected. “There are opportunities for me. I just think that every time I get an opportunity like this I have to do my best to take it, and that’s what I think I did tonight.

“I’m grateful to the gaffer for giving me the opportunity personally and he is giving a lot of the young players opportunities. We are getting them, so it is just a matter of us taking them.”

Folami says he’s more than to play as a lone striker as he did at the JobServe Community Stadium last night: “Yes, of course I’m happy to play anywhere for the team. It was definitely tough up against some big defenders but I’m glad I got through it.”

He sees the next round of the competition, which will be played in the first week of December, as another chance for him to play for the senior side.

“Hopefully I’m involved in that,” he continued. “If I am I’ll just have to give it my best and just deliver for the team.”

And he believes he has what it takes to make an impression in League One if called upon: “Yes, I think so. If I work hard enough and I train well enough to give myself the opportunity and get the chance, I think I can make a difference to the first team.”

Folami was one of four players in last night’s starting line-up who had come through the Blues’ academy, while another five were on the bench, including 16-year-old pair Tawanda Chirewa and Liam Gibbs, who made their debuts as late subs.

“Yes, to have two 16-year-old out there on the pitch at the end is a great achievement for the academy, for the club, and I think everyone did really well,” he added.

Folami was also impressed with 19-year-old midfielder Brett McGavin’s display: “Yes, Brett did really well, didn’t look out of place at all. Put himself about and I’m happy for him that he did so well.”

Regarding schoolboy midfielder Chirewa, he said: “Tawanda’s a good player, he’s very neat and tidy and he’s done well to earn this opportunity to play up with the first team, so well done to him.”

“This is a great opportunity for the youngsters to play, the EFL Trophy, and, as I said before, whenever they do play, they just have to take that opportunity and to leave an impression on the coaching staff.”

The Australian admits it was disappointing not to finish top of the group, which would have guaranteed a home fixture in the next round, whereas the Blues will now be handed an away trip when the draw is made on Saturday afternoon at 2pm.

“Yes, that was a big focus for us to try and finish top of the group,” he said. “But the gaffer’s not too disappointed with us he’s very happy with our performance and we’ll just have to go away and try and do the business.”

Folami says he learns from the club’s senior strikers: “Yes, of course, there are definitely some experienced strikers there for me to learn from.

“And getting the opportunity to train with the is very good because I can see how they do things, and what they’re doing that I’m not, so that’s good for me.

“To become more professional, to see what these higher professionals are doing and try and add it to my game.”

He says manager Lambert has involved him in training with the first-team squad regularly.

“Me personally, the gaffer’s been getting me involved quite a lot," he said. "The young lads also come up quite a bit a well. But I’m just grateful to be training with them on a consistent basis, so it’s very good.”

Having had the injury and been out of the first-team picture for so long, he says he’s had to prove he was ready for first team involvement again.

“I definitely had to come back in and prove myself,” he reflected. “I was confident in myself I could do it, despite the injury because I did it before with Mick McCarthy, and that took a lot of convincing!

“It’s still a challenge, of course, with Paul Lambert and I still have a long way to go, but I’m just grateful that he gave me this opportunity.”

His involvement last night delayed him travelling out to join up with Australia's U23s to play in a friendly tournament in Chongqing, China.

“Yes, I’m heading off tomorrow [Wednesday], I would have been heading off last Saturday but now I’m going tomorrow, so I nice 14-hour flight to look forward to.”

He says he now has a busy few days ahead of him with Australia facing the hosts on Friday, North Korea on Sunday and Lithuania on Tuesday.

“It’ll be very hectic,” he continued. “I fly out tomorrow, I get there on Thursday their time, then I have two games to play and then I’ll be back. I’m only there for four or five days, so it’s a long way to go. But I’m very happy to do it, so it’s OK.

“The games are ahead of the AFC U23 tournament in January, which is in Thailand and that’s to qualify for the Olympics.

“That is the next goal for me national team-wise, so to do well in this camp and then for them to call me up in January for that, that would be great.”

Photos: TWTD

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midastouch added 11:58 - Nov 13
A possible wildcard for the season. Keane has looked well below par this season (aside from his goal against Gillingham), so perhaps Folami could force his way ahead of him in the pecking order. Not sure how far off Sears is but we could do with somebody in the meantime to make Norwood and Jackson look over their shoulders, as so far, Keane hasn't performed well enough for them to be overly worried about their own starting places.

Steve_ITFC_Sweden added 14:08 - Nov 13
Agree with midastouch. We need more firepower up front. But in the lower divisions, this is not an easy commodity to find. Maybe Folami can develop into a suitable option. He certainly did ok last night, given he was stuck up there on his own against two giants.

midastouch added 15:02 - Nov 13
@Steve_ITFC_Sweden, yeah will have been a good development / learning experience for Folami last night. He didn't do his future chances any harm on that showing.

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