Roberto Di Matteo had nothing to say when asked about the prospect of Peter Odemwingie maintaining his goalscoring record this season. The West Bromwich Albion manager simply closed his eyes and put his hands together in prayer.
Nor, you feel, was he being irreverent. The Nigeria international's eight goals in 16 starts suggest Albion's chances of staying up depend on them keeping him fit and, having missed most of October after stretching knee ligaments, Odemwingie acknowledged the Premier League's punishing Christmas schedule had asked physical questions his body was not accustomed to answering.
"December was the first time I played on Sunday and then Tuesday, a one-day break. At least now I know I have done it and it is possible, but it is hard," the striker said on Friday.
A system that means Odemwingie is usually the only attacking outlet places a higher premium on physical conditioning; according to Di Matteo, statistics reveal that Odemwingie is among his hardest-working players. Had John Carew chosen Albion instead of Stoke last week – the club matched the Potters' offer to Aston Villa – the burden might have been reduced. As it is, Albion travel to Blackburn today with Odemwingie once again likely to be a sole striker.
Odemwingie is philosophical. "To be honest I think he [Carew] would have struggled here, because if you are talking about his height, our game is not about crossing all the time. If his strong point is heading, I don't think he would get so many chances, though for sure the few times he did he would have got some goals.
"It's not that I like [playing on my own], this is how our team plays. If you have more players running up front it is more interesting for you, but sometimes you see everybody is playing disciplined, and you just have to do it."
Such is his good nature, it is hard to imagine Odemwingie complaining about anything, though he has made his feelings clear on the racism he experienced while playing in Russia, hoping the decision to award the country the 2018 World Cup will force the game's authorities to ensure the cancer is eradicated.
In the meantime his mother, Raisa, still lives in Moscow and, as he explained, continues to ensure he is looking after himself. "I have startedto cook for myself, which is something new for me. I think a man needs to sometimes be ready to look after himself. Also, I think you can impress people, it is not a usual thing when a boy makes a nice meal.
"Last week I cooked a type of fried rice, a complicated dish with a few tricks in it – so I had my Mum watching me on Skype, telling me every second what I had to do. It was Friday night, and I said to her if I score tomorrow we will have to do more."
Two goals in the win against Blackpool duly ensured that, yesterday evening, Odemwingie was once again in culinary communication with the Russian capital. Blackburn can only hope Mrs Odemwingie loses her touch.
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