Special Kay aims to raise the roof - at Newcastle's expense

FA Cup Fourth Round: Link with a famous giant-killing of old has no impact on one of Cup's newest heroes
Click to follow
The Independent Football

It's a sure sign of time and the tide passing over you when you mention the phrase "Ronnie Radford goal" to a would-be FA Cup giant-killer and he replies with a blank stare and an apology. "I'm sorry, I'm not aware of it," Kayode Odejayi confessed. "I haven't seen it, to be honest."

The BBC are sure to put that right before Odejayi leads the Cheltenham Town forward line against Newcastle United in the fourth-round tie to be televised live from Whaddon Road at lunchtime next Saturday. The long-range screamer that Radford struck against Newcastle in the mud at Hereford back in 1972 has become the symbolic small-screen image of the Davids cutting the Goliaths down to size on the FA Cup trail, although it was actually a late equaliser in that third-round replay, and Ricky George was the man responsible for delivering the winning blow in Hereford's famous 2-1 extra-time victory.

It has some relevance to next Saturday's tie, too - and not just because Graeme Souness's flapping Premiership Magpies are in danger of falling victim to a team of underdogs, albeit from League Two rather than the non-League ranks.

Ronnie Radford spent eight years playing for Cheltenham in their Southern League days. He still worked in the town as a joiner when he joined Hereford as a part-timer. In fact, he spent the day before that Newcastle tie putting the roof on a house in Cheltenham. He returned to finish the job at 8am the following Monday.

"There's a nice little link to Cheltenham, then," Odejayi politely acknowledged, after patiently listening to the FA Cup history lesson. If the roof is to fall in on the latter-day Newcastle at Whaddon Road on Saturday it is the 23-year-old striker who is likely to be responsible for it. Ominously for the Tynesiders, his Christian name does start with a "Kayo", and his surname finishes with a "y" and an "i," as in the Geordie term of agreement, "Why aye". "Most people just call me Kay," he said. "Whichever way you want to say it, it's all right with me."

More pertinently, there is the "KO" capacity that Kayode showed at Chester on Tuesday night, as he scored the only goal of the third-round replay and twice forced brilliant last-ditch saves from Stéphane Gillet - Luxembourg's No 1, no less.

Odejayi, born in Nigeria but brought up in London, has a family goalscoring pedigree. He is a cousin of Burnley's Ade Akinbiyi, second top scorer in the Championship, and whose tally of £12.75m in accumulated transfer fees is set to rise further if Neil Warnock has his way. At 23, and a muscular 6ft 2in, Odejayi also happens to be notably quick - an attribute that may well bring to mind the words "Bramble", "Boumsong", "sleepness" and "nights" to the fretful Toon Army, if not Graeme Souness.

Not that Odejayi is the sort to go shouting any giant-killing odds, deftly sidestepping the question when asked about the prospect of facing Newcastle's notoriously vulnerable defence.

"Well, obviously the manager's been under a bit of pressure," he said. "They're not really going well this season but they've been unfortunate with the injuries they've had. They're still one of the top teams in English football. Whatever side they field, it's going to be very difficult for us. They're a Premiership side and we're only League Two. We're just going to go out and give it our best."

At £5,000, the fee he commanded from Forest Green Rovers three years ago, Odejayi cost Cheltenham precisely £14,995,000 less than Newcastle paid 10 years ago for the man who will be leading their forward line, and their team, on Saturday. "I think the only comparison between myself and Alan Shearer is that we're both strikers," the modest Odejayi maintained. "He's one of the best in the world at what he does. He's had a great career and he's a massive name, a household name. I doubt many people in Newcastle know about me or any other of the Cheltenham boys."

That anomaly ought to be rectified by the final whistle next Saturday. John Ward - a coach under Graham Taylor at Watford and his assistant at Aston Villa - has fashioned an impressively organ-ised side, full of players keenly devouring a second bite at League football. Odejayi was a first-teamer at Bristol City at the age of 17 but made just one start and was released by Danny Wilson. He spent a season in the Nationwide Conference with Forest Green before Bobby Gould gave him a second chance in the professional game at Cheltenham.

"When you get released it is pretty hard to take," Odejayi reflected. "You start to question yourself and your ability. There were times when I wasn't sure if I really wanted to continue, but I had good people around me: my mum, my dad, my brothers, and obviously my cousin. I had one decent season with Forest Green and I managed to get myself back into League football with Cheltenham.

"Ade has always been a big influence. I speak to him all the time and I try to get up to Burnley to see him whenever I can. He phoned me after the Chester game, saying well done and stuff. He's done really well for himself. He's had a decent scoring record wherever he's gone. If I can do only half of what he's done, then I'll have had a pretty good career."

Comments