Unsung Heroes: Yemi Odubade

By Pete H

A perfect combination of power and pace is what made Yemi Odubade such an integral, yet understated, part of our 2010 title-winning side. If you had to pick a five-a-side team made up of our champion cohort, some picks would – of course – be obvious. We’d bet you’d pick Daysey, Robbo, and Bozzie for starters. Then you’d maybe be thinking about the likes of Lairdy, Lawrie, Mitchell, or Beardo. But we’d be sure to make space for Yemi ourselves. And we’d be reaping the benefits of his predator instincts in no time at all…

When did Yemi Odubade join us?

Yemi came to us from Oxford United in summer 2009; told by then-boss Chris Wilder he could go on a free after three years at the Kassam. Now, at the time, there was perhaps the sense that he was a player who could be a bit hit and miss. We must admit that – at the time – we weren’t 100% sure what his role would be. But the BoroGuide team is well used to being proven wrong. And Yemi proved to be a relentless driving force in our side.

Where did he play for Boro’?

Up top – or slightly on the wing.
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What makes him an unsung hero?

Like a lot of clubs, we can look back on our fair share of superstar strikers; lads who had an eye for goal, and scored plenty of them. You can take Martin Gittings as read. But the other names we can give you are a veritable who’s who of Boro’ royalty – Steve Morison, Carl Alford, and Barry Hayles to start. And it means every striker that comes next will be (unfairly) measured against such impressive benchmarks.

For some fans, there’s also a perception that you need a 25-goal-a-season striker if you want to win anything. It doesn’t always work like that. Just ask Tottenham. Yemi – much like Chris Beardsley and Charlie Griffin – had a bit of that expectation on their shoulders. Unfairly so, to be fair. And their contribution to the side should be seen in more than just goals. There was the unwavering harassment of opposition defences for a start.

Badgering the defences

Beardo gets a lot of credit for that particular responsibility, but Yemi would run defenders ragged. And he didn’t hang about in proving his point to former club Oxford. His first goal for Boro’ was away to the Us on 22 August 2009. Mind you, it was in vain as we lost 2-1.

As Boro’ started to gel and results started to become consistently better after a slow start, Yemi was at the heart of the action. The goals were being spread around the side. So, it didn’t have to fall on one man to come up with the goods. And, to start with, it was just as well. He scored one of our three in the epic comeback win at Mansfield Town in early September. But he didn’t find the net again for two months.

Part of this, arguably, was because he was in and out of the starting XI; sometimes only getting two or three minutes as sub at the end of the game. It was all part of GW’s masterplan – but it’s not helpful for frontmen looking to get in the goals on a regular basis. And when Yemi did get a regular run in our starting XI, those goals started to follow. In fact, he scored three league goals in six outings between November and December.

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Important goals, essential presence

The third of those was at Ebbsfleet United on a baltic night at Stonebridge Road. Yemi grabbed the goal that took us in at the break one goal to the good. But he didn’t emerge for the second half through injury. And the Fleet capitalised; turning the score around to claim the win. Was it coincidence? Probably? Are we going to settle for that? No. Instead, we’re using it as proof that Boro’ were better for Yemi’s inclusion in the team.

He returned not too long afterwards and was present to score in both Cambridge fixtures over the festive break. Into the New Year, the goals kept coming too. Braces against Mansfield Town here at home in February and down at Crawley Town in late March came either side of a super hattrick at home to Barrow. Mind you, his goals at Crawley are somewhat lost in the collective memories. It was also the game that Joel Byrom bagged from the halfway line.

Boro’ went on to secure the title – but fell just short in the FA Trophy final. Only once was Yemi out of the starting XI in those final games. And that was at home to York City when the job was already done. And so he was one of the band of brothers that took us into the Football League for the first time; coming on as sub in our first League Two game against Macclesfield Town.

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Yemi Odubade: Epilogue

For Yemi, goals became scarce at a higher level. And he ended up coming off the bench more times than he’d start. On the goals front, however, our top scorers for the 2010-1 season only managed eight. And Yemi scored twice in total. Hardly a bad proportion in that context.

He featured relatively regularly during the first half of the campaign; bringing a spark to our attack at a time we were struggling with life in League Two. But, in January 2011, GW decided we needed something different. After Yemi featured in our FA Cup matches against Newcastle and Reading, he was on the move. Newport County took him on loan in the deal that brought Craig Reid to the Lamex.

At the end of the season, Yemi returned – but only to clear out his locker. As Boro’ went up into League One, the forward left us on a free; signing for Blue Square Premier side Gateshead. In a weird coincidence, he arrived at the Heed with Eddie Odhiambo – the defender who was also a part of our title-winning success in 2010. And Odhiambo’s time between leaving us and joining Gateshead was also spent at Newport. Anyway, that’s an extra little flourish for you.

For Yemi, he left us on good terms and with our best wishes for the future. Upon arriving at the Heed, he said: “I wasn’t getting enough game time at Stevenage last season (2010-1) and went to Newport County on loan. I have parted company with Stevenage on good terms and this is now a new chapter for me. Gateshead is a good club that is moving in the right direction and I’m sure we can kick on next season.”

Yemi played for Eastleigh, Maidstone United, Eastbourne Borough, Weymouth, and Salisbury in the years that followed his time with us. He may not have reached the same heady heights as he did with us – but he’ll forever remain (in our minds) an unsung hero of our 2010 title success.

YEMI ODUBADE39 (29) appearances, 17 goals (2009-11)


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