Fulham defender Tosin Adarabioyo on having to leave Manchester City in order to make his name in the Premier League, getting advice from Joleon Lescott… and why they could not be playing his old club at a better time
- Tosin Adarabioyo and Joachim Andersen have helped Fulham go on a run
- Only Manchester City boast a better defensive record over the past 14 games
- Fulham beat Liverpool at Anfield last week, continuing their bid to avoid the drop
- Scott Parker became aware of Tosin when he was working as a coach at Spurs
It is not easy to break through from an English academy, no matter how talented you are. Most boys don’t make it.
So when somebody does, pride is involved. It is this that caused Tosin Adarabioyo’s mobile phone to buzz one morning this week.
‘I had a text from one of the staff members at Manchester City just this morning saying that I was doing really well, and that was really nice to receive,’ he tells Sportsmail. ‘I know they are all watching.’
Tosin Adarabioyo spent 18 years on Man City’s books but left to join Fulham in the summer
Tosin is starring as a central defender in Scott Parker’s Fulham team as they aim for survival
The 23-year-old, who prefers to go by his first name as is on the back of his shirt, spent 18 years on City’s books but had to leave to make his name in the Premier League.
Tosin is now starring as a central defender in Scott Parker’s Fulham team as they endeavour to resist gravity’s pull and remain in the Premier League. Last Sunday, Fulham beat Liverpool at Anfield. On Saturday night it’s City at home.
Without doubt defensive resilience has been at the heart of Fulham’s improvement. Tosin’s partnership with the Dane Joachim Andersen has helped their team put together a run that sees only City boasting a better defensive record over the past 14 games.
Asked if it was emotionally difficult to cut ties with his hometown club last September, Tosin says: ‘No, surprisingly. Well, I guess some people would say that’s surprising. But I was actually fine with it. Ultimately my goal is to be a top player. That was never going to happen at City so I knew I had to get out of there.
Tosin’s partnership with the Dane Joachim Andersen has helped their team put together a run
‘It wasn’t the same club I had grown up in. A lot of the staff had gone so it was an easy decision. I felt very comfortable making the decision and coming here and it is working out. I love it at Fulham.’
Tosin’s progression from coltish young footballer to a defender tough enough and astute enough to play in the Premier League was helped by loans to the Championship. First it was West Bromwich Albion, then Blackburn Rovers.
Mentally, football played in the streets and parks near his south Manchester home as a child didn’t harm him either. Tosin is the youngest of three brothers and all were talented players.
‘I was playing with my brothers’ mates, boys bigger and better, so they weren’t going to pass to me were they?’ he smiles. ‘You have to go and get the ball for yourself. So I learned to tackle.’
Last Sunday, Fulham beat Liverpool at Anfield, now it is the league leaders City up next
Unlike many top-class defenders, Tosin always wanted to play at the back. Picked up by City playing for his club Chorlton Sports at a very young age, he was accelerated into their age group set-up after just one trial session.
‘All I really remember is the floodlights,’ he recalls. ‘Before then most of my football had been played on the street outside our first house in Whalley Range or in the park. We just used to climb over the fence.’
Staff from Tosin’s time at City remember a humble, pleasant kid with an awful lot of talent. By the age of 14 he was already well over six foot tall. The only slight mystery is why City manager Pep Guardiola ultimately decided he didn’t need him.
Last January, with City struggling for defenders and forced to play midfielder Fernandinho at the back, Guardiola could have called Tosin back from his loan at Blackburn but chose not to. That was the time the player realised it was time to seek a different path.
Staff from Tosin’s time at City remember a humble, pleasant kid with an awful lot of talent
He has been made tougher by loans to the Championship at West Brom and Blackburn
‘At the start of last season my focus was to perform as well as I could to potentially get back there to City,’ Tosin explains. ‘But from January until the end of the season, it was solely playing for myself and getting to the level I needed and wanted to get to. Despite the fact City didn’t want to call me back at the time, I thought that was Pep’s choice and that’s fine. We didn’t speak about it but that’s no problem either.
‘Joleon Lescott [City’s loan manager] was in regular touch and his advice was always good and appreciated. He has helped me with my game too. But I knew had to find a new place where I was able to go and perform. That is what I have done.’
The away dressing room at Anfield last Sunday was a rare place to be. Big enough to accommodate all of Fulham’s players in these days of social distancing, it was a scene of celebration. Fulham looked cut adrift earlier this season but now they are anything but. They have only lost one of their past seven League games, winning three.
‘I thought our confidence was sky high before the Liverpool game but it’s gone up again now,’ he says. ‘We are very confident after that. We have all been very positive throughout. We know things can change. It’s never right to write things off as it can all change in two or three games.’
But he decided to leave after Pep Guardiola decided not to recall him and play Fernandinho
Fulham manager Parker became aware of Tosin when he was working as youth coach at Tottenham. He calls him ‘a lovely footballer’. Certainly, Tosin would like to be known for more than just the nuts and bolts of defending.
As for his standing as a young man for others from his background to aspire to, he has an interesting view. ‘That’s a difficult one,’ he says. ‘I don’t think it should be any player’s responsibility to be a role model.
‘I don’t think it is the right term. At the end of the day we are athletes. We are not perfect and people shouldn’t necessarily aspire to be us. They can maybe aspire to be that athlete or that performer but I wouldn’t say “role model”. It’s just good to show that these things are possible if you come from those areas.’
Tosin revealed Joleon Lescott was often in touch last season and he appreciated his advice
For Tosin, progress has been swift recently but also hard-earned. A friendship with one of his formative City coaches, Billy Hughes, endures and reminds him of where has come from. As for the future, he wants to play international football and could represent England or Nigeria. He also wants to play in the Champions League. On Saturday night he just wants to stop City scoring.
‘It’s always really mentally tough,’ he laughs. ‘You have to be very aware of their movements, whoever is in that nine role dropping deep to get the ball. It’s hard but it was the same at Liverpool. There were times in the game — pretty much the whole of the second half — where you have to have laser focus.
‘You can’t rest for one moment and it will be the same against City. But to get that clean sheet is something else. It’s great afterwards. That’s what you play for.’
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