Former Chesterfield striker Gozie Ugwu: “It was an opportunity I couldn’t make the most of, with so many factors off the pitch.”

Chesterfield FC v Braintree Town'Gozie Ugwu fails to find the net in the first half.
Chesterfield FC v Braintree Town'Gozie Ugwu fails to find the net in the first half.

Gozie Ugwu’s two-year Chesterfield spell was a sad case of missed chances.

The striker arrived at the League Two-bound club on the back of a 21-goal season at National League Woking.

Yet he departs without hitting the net for Town.

His opportunities were limited, first by injuries and then falling out of favour with the third of four managers to take charge since 2017.

“It was difficult,” he said, of his first season.

“Just when I thought I was finding my feet within the playing system, that was when I got injured.

“From there it was pretty much a write off.

“With the team going down and not being able to play a part to help, that was frustrating on my part.”

Ugwu hoped he’d finally get a chance to prove himself in his second season, this time in the National League.

“It was always going to be difficult with a new manager, a new way of playing,” he said.

“I was trying to adapt to what he wanted from me.”

But despite expressing his excitement at working with Ugwu, Martin Allen had sent him out on loan to Boreham Wood by September.

“The frustrating part was that I didn’t really feel like I had a chance to get going, coming back from a long-term injury,” said the striker.

“It was difficult to come back and hit the ground running from there.”

“It’s not something I was pushing for, going on loan, but the manager had his way of playing, he knew the players he wanted to play with and obviously wanted to free up space for players coming in.

“It was probably right for both parties.”

A ‘difficult’ loan spell yielded four goals in 20 games and when it came to a premature end, another, more enjoyable, temporary stay was arranged at Ebbsfleet.

“When I went to Boreham Wood, I didn’t know the manager, I didn’t know their system, you have to adapt and get used to it,” he said.

“Going to Ebbsfleet, previously working with Garry Hill, it’s not a new manager, it’s someone who knows you, knows how to man manage you, knows what you can do on the pitch.

“It was more of a welcome loan spell, he knew what he was getting and what he wanted me to do, I knew him, I was able to fit into the team a lot better.”

Even his time at Ebbsfleet wasn’t straight forward, however.

Late wage payments had an effect on the morale in the dressing room, provoking the players to refuse the warm up before their game against Wrexham.

Ironically enough, they went out and beat promotion hopefuls Wrexham that day.

Ugwu wasn’t impacted financially thanks to his employment at Chesterfield and praised his Ebbsfleet team-mates for the way they responded on the pitch.

“Financially, no, (I wasn’t affected) because I was still getting my wage from Chesterfield, still on time,” he said.

“In terms of the morale of the team, especially off the pitch, during the week, a lot of those guys have got families, they’ve got mortgages to pay.

“It’s not a nice feeling when you’ve got that financial burden at the back of your mind and you’ve still got to play football.

“But credit to the boys, as soon as they stepped on the pitch all things were forgotten and their job on the pitch was the main thing.”

Having finished the season away from the Proact, it was no surprise when his name cropped up on the list of players being released at the end of their contracts.

“From the time I left in the first place, I kind of knew my time there was done,” he said.

“It was up to me to focus on moving forward, stay fit and start to enjoy my football again.

“It’s such a shame I couldn’t be able to do that at Chesterfield, I went there knowing what I can do on the pitch, but there were so many factors that affected me.

“It was an opportunity I couldn’t really make the most of, with so many factors off the pitch.”

He has managed to find a positive from his two years with Town, however.

“Being at Chesterfield, especially when they went down, the fans still showing up, still supporting the boys, that strong sense of support - I’ve not really seen something like that before.

“It’s just a shame I couldn’t make the most of that and show them what I can do.

“It’s a club I’ll still be fond of and hope for the best, they should be back in the League where they belong.”

And just as the Spireites have moved on from the relationship, so will he.

He’s keen to prove, once again, that he can be a force in the National League.

“Moving forward it’s just a case of going into pre-season, wherever that may be, and starting the season strong.

“I know what I can do within this league.

“It’s just a matter of going somewhere with a manager that knows my playing style, knows my strengths.

“I really know I can do it. I’ve just got to go somewhere with the freedom to do those things.”