[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t was quite timely that my work last Saturday took me to cover Crewe Alexandra against Gillingham especially as I am currently writing about hidden gems outside the Premier League.
Uche Ikpeazu is a name that rolls not too easily off the tongue but a little bit easier than his full name, Karl Anthony Uchechuckwu Mubiru Ikpeazu. Can you imagine the club shop at Gresty Road (the Alexandra Stadium) trying to get that on a replica shirt? But this young man is certainly making a name for himself as he enjoys, and that really is the word, his loan spell at Crewe from Watford.
At 6 feet three inches tall and weighing in at over 12 stone, Uche is proving more than a handful for League One defences as the Alex fight to avoid relegation. A product of the Reading Academy, the youngster, still only 19, has already amassed a very noteworthy ratio of five goals in 16 games from his career total thus far of seven in 17.
Uche joined Didcot Town in 2011 and in the 2012-13 season, his final campaign for the Under 18s, he had amassed 28 goals in as many games to finish the top scorer in the country at academy level. Reading offered him a three year contract in 2013 but he turned it down in favour of a move to Watford on a three year deal.
A powerful centre forward, Uche is the true definition of an unpolished diamond. He has all the attributes of a traditional centre forward and for a big man he is amazingly deft on his feet and can wriggle out of most defensive traps. I have seen him on numerous occasions, surrounded by three or more defenders and, with a shrug of the shoulder or a small dose of pure strength, extricate himself from that situation. That’s when his pace can kick in because he is a sprinter; short distances or 40 yards, Uche is capable of taking the game from deep inside his own half to produce a goal threat of his own or set up a supporting team mate.
Last Saturday’s relegation battle with fellow strugglers Gillingham saw him score the decisive third goal and the manner in which he scored it sums him up as a player and demonstrated why he has tremendous potential.
Racing into the penalty area a combination of a shirt pulling defender and the goalkeeper saw Uche hit the deck. He sprang to his feet quickly, preferring to score rather than seek a penalty, and that tenacity won him the opportunity to lash the ball past the keeper to secure three vital points for Crewe.
Uche Ikpeazu has all the qualities to become a top striker. He has determination, fire, strength, pace and ball control. It is a combination that few goal scorers possess. Some may have a few of them but this young man has them all. He is also merciless in front of goal.
His approach to playing football has already earned him cult status at Crewe as well as a handful of Man of the Match awards. If he continues his current rate of progress he may not only help save Crewe from relegation but earn himself a move to a top club seeking a young, hungry goal scorer with the right attitude. A real gem just waiting for some polish.
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