Interview – Nedum Onuoha

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The United Mates Keitel and Joe are joined by Nedum Onuoha to discuss his playing career for Manchester City, Sunderland, Queens Park Rangers and Real Salt Lake, as well as what he’s up to these days with the “Kickback with Nedum” podcast, ESPN FC and The Athletic.

Icebreaker:

Outside of football, Nedum was a star track & field athlete in his youth. The group name things that they used to be better at when they were young.

On Football in Nedum’s Childhood:

Nedum was born in Nigeria and raised in England where he would develop a talent for football from a young age. However, in his household academics came first and sports couldn’t be enjoyed until schoolwork was done. Nedum joined the Manchester City youth system at a very young age but it wasn’t until he had progressed further into the academy that he began to consider a career in professional football. Nedum attributes some of the success that he had during his playing career down to the resilience and independence that came from responsibilities in his youth like getting himself to and from training, and traits instilled in him by his parents like keeping one foot firmly planted in front of the other when it came to tempering expectations.

On Manchester City:

Nedum grew into a Manchester City fan gradually and his allegiances to the blue half of Manchester were something that were cemented by his time spent playing for the Cityzens in his youth. Nedum was present as a fan at Man City’s famous victory over Gillingham in the 1999 Division Two playoff final; this wouldn’t be the last significant game for Manchester City that he was involved in by any means…

Nedum reflects on being a Manchester City fan at a time when their rivals Manchester United were at the peak of their powers, winning Champions Leagues, Premier Leagues and FA Cups under Sir Alex Ferguson.

Nedum gives his thoughts on the career trajectories of himself and fellow academy graduates and discusses the ways in which they were affected by the influx of money and players that came with the takeover of the club. Nedum came through the ranks at Man City with the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Shaun and Bradley Wright-Phillips, Stephen Ireland, Ishmael Miller, Michael Johnson, Micah Richards, Ched Evans, Willo Flood, Kelvin Etuhu and Kasper Schmeichel.

Nedum talks about THAT goal that he scored for Sunderland against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and reveals the details of the Steve Bruce team talk that provided some of the inspiration for Nedum’s Leo Messi impression. He also reflects on the most difficult result during his loan spell on Weirside, a 5-1 defeat to Newcastle in the derby.

Nedum explains what the atmosphere and attitude was like around Manchester City during the season that they won their first Premier League. This would be Nedum’s last season with his boyhood club as he was sold in January after being forced out of the club by the manager at the time Roberto Mancini.

On Queens Park Rangers:

Nedum joined QPR in during the January transfer window and helped The Hoops to narrowly avoid relegation on the last day of the season away at his former club Manchester City. Despite losing on the day, QPR survived… but the drama didn’t stop there. This was of course the game made famous for Sergio Aguero’s last minute title winning goal, a goal written into Premier League folklore. Nedum talks about the disappointment that he felt in that moment as the QPR players weren’t aware that they had beaten the drop. He says that he didn’t even know who scored the game winner until several days after the fact because he was so wrapped up in the swing of emotions from that day upon finding out that his side would remain in the Premier League. He recalls the contrasting celebrations between the two sets of players in different locker rooms; QPR celebrated their survival with beer while Manchester City popped bottles of champagne to celebrate a championship.

Nedum talks about playing for QPR during a time when the club would yo-yo between the Championship and Premier League and shares memories of playing alongside a veteran Rio Ferdinand.

On Real Salt Lake:

Nedum explains the rationale behind his move to Utah and the MLS, how timing played a role and how he was sold the project at Real Salt Lake but most importantly how his decision was influenced by the quality of life that he would be able to assure for his family given the length of the contract that he was offered and the incredible beauty and tranquility provided by what would be their new surroundings.

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