The Stoke City striker has come to the end of the road with the Premier League club, but has the chance to reaffirm his class in the second tier
For Peter Odemwingie , wearing the #27 jersey, Saturday’s cameo must have all felt very familiar.
The Nigeria frontman will have found himself turning out at Craven Cottage against Fulham on many occasions during his time in the Premier League, with West Bromwich Albion, Cardiff City and Stoke City.
However, when the 34-year-old came on as a half-time substitute this weekend, the circumstances were very different, as Odemwingie, for the first time since 2010, found himself playing a league game outside the EPL.
First day at the club and first game is a win away from Bristol. Two quality goals got us 3 very important points. 4000 away fans
— Peter Odemwingie (@OdemwingieP) March 12, 2016
Having moved to Bristol City on loan until the end of the season, the Super Eagles hitman finds himself in very unfamiliar territory; an unforgiving relegation scrap at the base of the Championship.
City enjoyed an eight-point cushion until recently, separating them from the danger zone in the second tier. However, such is the intensity and the volatile tempestuousness of the division, that Lee Johnson’s side’s advantage has steadily been whittled away to four points over a few testing weeks.
Johnson | Needed something extra for the final months of the season
It could have been worse had Bristol not come from behind at Craven Cottage to secure a 2-1 win, ensuring they end the weekend three points above Fulham, the side directly below them in the table.
After the match, Johnson was praised for his boldness at half-time, introducing Bobby Reid and the debuting Odemwingie for Luke Freeman and Jonathan Kodija.
Indeed, while the young coach will have been keen to begin to steadily introduce Odemwingie to his first team, there were no guarantees that the forward—who only signed on Friday—would find his feet so quickly.
— Bristol City FC (@bcfctweets) March 11, 2016
The veteran attacker had been a bit-part player at Stoke during the first portion of the campaign—playing just 101 minutes for the Potters over five substitute appearances in the EPL—and having gone over a month without competitive football before Saturday.
“I’m looking forward to working with him,” Johnson told City’s official club website when the move was confirmed.
“I’m delighted we’ve been able to bring someone of Peter’s quality in; he’ll provide us with experience and hopefully goals in one form or another.”
Can Odemwingie bring his WBA goalscoring form to Ashton Gate?
There was certainly evidence against Fulham that Odemwingie can be a key asset for Bristol, even if he will be looking to increase his influence with the Robins between now and the end of the campaign
The forward was a threat from wide areas, and with one key pass, he showed how he could be a fine foil for the likes of Jonathan Kodija and Aaron Wilbraham (who have 18 goals between them) over the coming weeks.
Beyond the obvious desire to avoid suffering relegation at this late stage in his career, Odemwingie will surely be aware that he every minute he features for Bristol is an opportunity to impress his enduring talents upon prospective suitors.
LJ: “Peter Odemwingie seemed to just settle us down and he almost scored a few times. He’s got an infectious personality.”
— Bristol City FC (@bcfctweets) March 12, 2016
The forward’s contract at parent club Stoke comes to an end in the summer, and even before his loan move away, the attacker’s chances of securing a new deal under Mark Hughes have been dismissed.
Thanks for the tweets Potters. I left but I am still with you.
— Peter Odemwingie (@OdemwingieP) March 11, 2016
“Pete is in a situation where he’s at the end of his contract and isn’t going to be re-contracted here,” the Welsh manager admitted to the Stoke Sentinel.
“There was an opportunity to allow him to go out and play football and his opportunities here from now until the end of the season are going to be few and far between.”
No future for Pete at Stoke, says Hughes
It’s hard to judge exactly what level Odemwingie can still play at following several years of near-non-activity and debilitating injury.
Even before his peripheral role at Stoke this term, he managed only seven outings—of which only one was a start—last season, with the first half of his campaign a write-off due to injury.
His move to Bristol City is, therefore, not merely a welcome fillip—albeit no kind of guarantee—for the struggling Robins, but also an end-of-career audition for the forward.
He’ll surely never return to the kind of goalscoring ratios he enjoyed at West Bromwich—where he bagged 31 goals in 90 games—but the intelligent attacker still has the opportunity to demonstrate that he still has a role to play as a smart, creative forward.