Football: Ekoku chased

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HE IS big in Norwich, much vaunted in Nigeria and has an appreciation society in the Netherlands that could even see him playing for the master club, Ajax. As much as Efan Ekoku may prefer the role of the reluctant hero, his deeds on the field are moving forward his reputation as rapidly as he can leave defenders trailing in his wake.

The Uefa Cup first round, second leg in Arnhem on Wednesday was a night for sound goalkeeping and committed defenders. Even so the three-goal lead Norwich protected so diligently could have been doubled had Ekoku shown just a glimpse of his scoring form the previous weekend at Everton.

It was not the occasion to bemoan chances that slipped away and in appearing again and again in the right place the striker still impressed Clemens Westerhof, the manager of the Nigerian World Cup squad who look certain to qualify for next summer's finals and want Ekoku on board.

'No striker ever took 100 per cent of his opportunities, not Pele, not George Best. Efan had a very good game and he can be our Ian Wright,' said Westerhof. If one more point is secured in Algiers next week he will request that Ekoku be available for Nigeria's friendly internationals pre-America.

'After the game on Wednesday I told officials of Ajax that they should sign him. They are looking for a centre-forward and he is the player they need.'

The Norwich party were grateful finally to reach their beds well past four yesterday morning. The aircraft bringing home club officials, civic dignitaries and journalists overshot the runway at Norwich airport and caused the players to divert to Stansted and a long coach ride. The tenderfoots of European football have experienced a lot in a very short time.