Gozie Ugwu has a point to prove
A five-star performance in Chesterfield's first pre-season fixture under Martin Allen provided a comfortable 5-1 win over Northern Premier League East Division side Sheffield FC, and showed that the new team is gelling together nicely.
Impressing the new gaffer will be on the list of priorities for each of the squad members, so putting in good showings from the off will naturally be on there too.
There have been plenty of discussions about numerous team members with points to prove – the likes of Zavon Hines and Joe Rowley, to name a few – but one player with his career on the line who has managed to avoid the limelight is Gozie Ugwu.
The 25-year-old forward from Oxford has dipped his toes into the Football League on numerous occasions, but hasn’t yet found his goal-scoring touch when playing in England’s top four tiers, evident in that he has failed to score in any of his 14 competitive appearances for Chesterfield.
In fact, he has only managed 10 goals in 93 EFL league appearances, contrasting with the 17-goal season he enjoyed in the National League with Woking – 19 in all competitions that season – before Chesterfield came calling.
Now approaching the middle mark of his career, Ugwu’s window of opportunity to cement himself beyond the non-league is beginning to look narrower.
That being said, a former non-league striker, who goes by the name of Jamie Vardy, didn’t make his break until a very similar age, with a 31-goal season in the Conference earning him a move to Leicester City in 2012, when he was also aged 25. His career has since been fairly quiet...
Most likely looking to Premier League championship and golden boot winner Vardy for some much-needed inspiration, Ugwu will know that the upcoming season could be a decisive era of his playing career.
Thankfully for Ugwu, the National League is no new territory. Knowing that he notched 17 goals in his last non-league campaign may well be an important confidence boost. To hit the back of the net in the Spireites’ opening pre-season friendly will also help the striker get off on the right foot.
Although confidence and inspiration are important factors in a player’s development, perhaps the most important boost of all for Ugwu this upcoming season will be game time itself. Most of his 14 appearances last season were made from the bench; the total game time he had that season would be far from enough for any striker to make a meaningful impact.
With key striker Kristian Dennis now out of the frame with his move to Notts County, along with veteran Chris O’Grady who departed the Proact Stadium through mutual termination, the door suddenly swings wide open for the striker whose involvement in the first team has been limited until now.
And with more game time also comes more responsibility to place on Ugwu’s shoulders; hopefully additional pressure on the 25-year-old will bring out the performances that his National League record promised when he arrived at the Proact.
New signings will additionally bring healthy competition to the striker’s game, with his main fear most likely being another season stuck on the bench.
With Ugwu back at a playing level where he has succeeded before, and with strikers higher up in the pecking order now moved elsewhere, there couldn’t be a better time than now for him to step up and prove to Chesterfield fans that he can provide when needed.
Martin Allen has given Ugwu the chance to do just that by including him in his plans, and Gozie will hopefully be up for the challenge. After all, next season could make or break the rest of his career.