Dunfermline Athletic

First words from Jonathan Afolabi

Tuesday, 28th Jan 2020

“I had to choose what was right for me in this moment in time. It feels like this club was the right place to go, it is a good place to be.”

When the twenty year old Irishman Jonathan Afolabi found out that he had the opportunity to come to Dunfermline he felt that it was a good opportunity to make his mark in senior football and gain valuable experience. So with his loan spell agreed until the end of the season, Jon is now anxious to get started.

“I could have went back down south but I had to choose what was right for me in this moment in time. It feels like this club was the right place to go, it is a good place to be.”

The Irish Under 19 cap acknowledged that remaining close and visible to Celtic meant Dunfermline was a better option that others south of the border:-

“It makes it easier to stay in contact with Celtic and see what other aspects of my game that I can improve on while out on loan. It is a good place to start to try and get professional experience. I am happy to be here.

“It will be great to get straight into it and hit the ground running here. That would be the perfect way to start for me but obviously I have just got to play my way in.

“I have watched the league a couple of times, I have to try and impose my game on it, offer myself to the team and try and get on the scoresheet as many times as possible.”

Jon has not figured in the Celtic first team since arriving from Southampton in August but feels that it was just a matter of timing:-

“They are doing very well at the moment but there are lots of ways for me to try and improve so that I can play at that level as well. Going out on loan is a positive thing because I can impose my game that way as well.”

The Betfred Cup match earlier this season when Dunfermline played Celtic was the day that Jon signed for Celtic so he does know as an eye witness just what Dunfermline are capable of.

“I watched that game and like everyone in the stadium, I was surprised. I thought Celtic were just going to do what they normally do but it was good to see Dunfermline put up a fight. They just felt short in the end but it was a good game to watch.”

At Southampton Jon made five appearances in the Football League Trophy and though the Saints are a big club coming to to Celtic brought even higher expectations.

“A lot of responsibility comes because Celtic basically have to win every game they play. The fans expect a lot from them, it is good to be a part of that and have those big expectations on your shoulders.”

Training with Celtic was a mix between first team and the reserves. He explained that he had missed out on pre season because he had just come straight back from the Euros:-

“I played with the reserves for game time, stayed fit and sharp. I trained with the first team if they needed numbers but more times with the reserves.

“I know the team is doing well and it was hard to get a look in. I just had to do what I normally do which is making my name said everywhere. The more they say my name the better. I try to get on the scoresheet as many times as possible.

“There is other ways of getting in the first team and a loan is good for me at this moment in time. My aim is to come in, get a starting position and try and impress the manager to leave a good mark of myself.”

Jon claims to have benefited from learning from some of the the best players in the country and singled out one Celtic and Scotland star as playing a particularly large part in his development at the Scottish champions:-

“Leigh Griffiths has come a long way and just got back into the team. I am happy for him but every time he trained with the reserves he still had that level of intensity. He would be sharp and speak to me just to keep me in line.

“We are both forwards and easy to speak. He is a real leader I’d say. Even when I played in reserve games, I remember one day against Motherwell. I scored but on the way in at half time he was still telling me things that could get the manager’s eye on to me, certain things that I could do to score goals. It was great to be able to learn from a person like him.”

Settling in at Dunfermline has been made easy for the newbie who added:-

“It has been great so far, the lads have been very good and they have all welcomed me with open arms. All I can do now is just repay them, help them on the pitch as much as I can. I can’t wait to get started now.”

Jon explained that the decision to join Dunfermline was for him to make:-

“It was down to me to see if I wanted to come. It can only improve myself and it can only make me better so why not take the opportunity?”

The Irishman describes himself as direct, quick, powerful and obviously as a striker likes to score goals. He is excited with the prospects of forming a partnership with Kevin Nisbet. He said:-

“It sounds good, I have seen him play a couple of times and I have heard about him as well because I think he has a couple of friends at Celtic as well. His name has come up quite a bit. I know that he is a real player so it will be good to learn off him as well.”

Playing at first team level at a club opens up many doors and Jon hopes that provides a boost for his international career:-

“It will be a nice way for them to be able to look at me and see I can handle a very good level of first team football. Nice for me to get going and make marks at international level but that is in the future.”

For him to attract the attentions of the Irish Under 21s it could well mean Pars manager from 2006-07, Stephen Kenny returning to East End Park to watch Jon. He was surprised to discover the connection:-

“It would be a nice one for him to get over here. He is my international manager at the moment in the under 21s, he has done really well. That is one that will stick with me now knowing that he has managed Dunfermline.

“It is a great thing for him and Ireland in general because he seems to be doing well with younger players. He knows how to impose what he wants to do on the pitch tactics wise. He gets his message across well. It will be good for him to step up and refresh the international scene of that is what he is planning to do.”

Stevie Crawford wished to thank Celtic for agreeing the loan of Jonathan Afolabi to Dunfermline until the end of the season.

“We had been working on this behind the scenes for a number of weeks. We are delighted to get that one over the line.

“We were probably a bit light in that area with Andy Ryan moving on to Airdrie so it brings good competition for places again. We have Kevin Nisbet, Lewis McCann and Gabby McGill, so we are delighted to get Jonathan on board.

“You can see he is a big lad but he has big feet on him, he is quick, he is powerful. The one thing that hasn’t got under his belt is first teams football. Sometimes players need time to adapt but he excites us.

Having spoken to Celtic we know bits and pieces that he can hopefully add to his game in his spell with us. He will very much be a handful for centre backs in this league.

“He has been involved with the Republic (of Ireland) in the Under 19 Euros during the summer. There are parts of his game that are different from what we have at the club at the moment. It is dangerous to say ‘did we definitely think that we were going to get him in’ but we had identified him early in the window.

“That relationship as a striker, having been one myself there is bits and pieces that I know he has to improve on. He knows that and that excites me. I have always said that a player who recognises that he is not the finished article, no matter where they are coming from, gives you a chance.

“He is very much coming to Dunfermline to try and educate himself and help the club move forward.

“He had spoken to coaches at Celtic that I know and done his homework on us. He found out a little bit about the club and the day that he signed for Celtic was the day we went through to play them. He got to see us on a good day!

“He was keen to come and play for us. That is great and shows where we are at the moment. We are getting the reputation for giving younger players opportunities but it is not just opportunities to come here and get a game, we are putting demands on players to try and help them kick start their career or move on in their careers to go to better places.

“If Jonathan comes here, does well and that catches Celtic’s eye, great. If he comes here and does well us he will go away with the best wishes of Dunfermline fans and everybody connected with the club.

“Jonathan will play on the shoulder and make runs in behind. He is not frightened to try and link up play. It will be a different level when he is at Celtic from what he finds in the Scottish Championship. Part of the attraction was that he is not frightened to take people on and try and do his best work in the final third of the pitch.”

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