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Hamilton Accies' Hakeem Odoffin loving new role as he lands remarkable title

Daily Record logoDaily Record 27/2/2021 Euan Robertson
a group of baseball players standing on top of a grass covered field: Hakeem Odoffin (centre) with Reegan Mimnaugh (left) and Ross Callachan © Hamilton Advertiser Hakeem Odoffin (centre) with Reegan Mimnaugh (left) and Ross Callachan

Hakeem Odoffin is flourishing in a midfield role at Hamilton despite never playing there before joining the club in the summer.

The 22 year-old has been one of the signings of the season in Scotland, consistently producing excellent performances whilst posting incredible statistics.

He’s developed an understanding of the requirements of a midfielder and he’s grown in confidence as displayed by his Zidane turn during an outstanding performance against Motherwell in the Lanarkshire derby.

a close up of a man © Hamilton Advertiser

Speaking at the launch of Hamilton’s strategic partnership with Sporting Pay, the Accies star discussed how he aided his adaptation to his new role.

He said: “As soon as the gaffer told me, I had to change my mindset. When you play at the back, the whole game is in front of you but you need to raise your awareness in midfield.

“It’s a process. I was never going to move position and automatically become a world-beater, it was about taking in as much information as possible.

“I was constantly speaking to the gaffer and Boozy {Guillaume Beuzelin}.

"In training, I was getting in those positions more and ensuring I was in the middle of possession drills rather than the sides.

a female football player on a field © PA

“It was about creating those scenarios in training so I could be ready for games. During games, I had to make sure that I wasn’t dropping too deep because as a defender that can be the inclination.”

Odoffin has flourished in that midfield role and has demonstrated admirable characteristics to his game.

Accies boss Brian Rice decided to deploy Odoffin in midfield after the heavy 8-0 defeat to Rangers at Ibrox.

It was imperative that Hamilton shored up their defence - they kept three clean sheets in four at the turn of the year - and Rice’s decision was to use Odoffin in a similar role to the one where Alex Gogic excelled last season.

Brian Rice standing in front of a football player posing for the camera: Hakeem Odoffin with manager Brian Rice © Steve Welsh Hakeem Odoffin with manager Brian Rice

“The gaffer spoke to me during the week and told me he was going to try something different,” Odoffin revealed about being told he'd play in midfield against Dundee United.

“He wanted me to do what I had been doing but just higher up the pitch. He wanted me to bring that aggression into the midfield area.

“I’m always going to do my best to help the team so when the gaffer tells me to do something - I do it.”

Rice has made a slight tactical adjustment in recent weeks and it’s paid dividends with improved results and performances.

a football player on a field © SNS Group

Hamilton have adopted a more adventurous approach, initiating the press higher up the pitch and Odoffin believes it’s been beneficial to his adjustment to his new role.

He said: “In the last few weeks, we’ve been pressing higher and it’s allowed me to impact the game further up the pitch.

“It’s just about getting comfortable and the more I play in midfield, the more comfortable I feel. I’m getting more experience in the role because I’d never played there before.

“I’m winning the ball higher up the pitch and it allows us to build attacks from a better starting point.”

Accies boss Rice had to revert Odoffin back to a central defensive role against St Mirren after Aaron Martin’s injury and again last weekend against Hibernian.

a man standing in front of a crowd © SNS Group

Odoffin played predominantly as a right back or right-wing back at Livingston last season and although his versatility is an extremely valuable asset, he’s best suited when deployed centrally.

He said: “I definitely feel I’m best playing centrally. Now that I’ve played centre-midfield, I feel as though I’m comfortable there.

“I’d never have said that before this season because I’d never played there. My best performances have come when playing centrally, whether in defence or midfield.”

Danny Shittu with a football ball on a field © SNS Group

Odoffin has remarkably made the most interceptions of any player under-23 in Europe.

He has made an incredible 87 interceptions this season which is a staggering 19 more than second-placed Atalanta's Cristian Romero - on-loan from Juventus.

“I saw it the other day on twitter and it’s a decent stat. It’s good to know that I’ve been able to help the team on that side of the game," Odoffin said about the remarkable stat.

“Breaking up play is part of my game that I pride myself in so it’s good to get that recognition.

“I just have to keep it going until the end of the season, keep breaking up play in whatever position I’m used in."

ODoffin sits second in the league for the most interceptions (222) behind St Mirren’s Connor McCarthy and sixth for interceptions per90 minutes.

The former Tottenham youngster has been a destructive force this season and he possesses an instinctive ability to break up opposition attacks.

a female football player on a field © SNS Group

Odofiin leads the league for total blocked shots (28) and is fourth for blocked shots per90 with a teammate leading in that department.

“Is it Watto?{Shaun Want}” Odoffin correctly answers when asked to identify his colleague, after a short pause.

“Look at that, I know my stuff! I was brought in as a defender and I’m going to do my best to ensure that I do that. When the statistics back up good performances then it’s only a good thing.”

Odoffin has been a virtual ever present for Accies this season missing just one Premiership fixture, the 4-0 defeat to Hibernian.

As a 17 year-old, he joined Wolverhampton Wanderers before embarking on a loan spell at National League side Eastleigh where he made 20 appearances.

Matt Tubbs et al. watching a football ball on a field © Daily Post Wales

After departing Molineux, he moved to Northampton making 16 appearances but Odoffin’s development has hugely benefited from receiving regular minutes at Accies.

He said: “It’s massive. For any player, it’s so important to get consistent minutes but you obviously have to earn it.

“Nothing is promised and you have to prove yourself in training every single session. I pride myself on making sure that I’m ready and I’ll never take anything for granted.

“I know from experience that you’re never guaranteed to play every week. As a young player, you have to make sure that you earn it because nothing is handed to you in football.

a man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera © Hamilton Advertiser

“I don’t want to give the gaffer a reason to drop me so I have to make sure that I’m doing everything right.”

Hamilton supporters, understandably, adore Odoffin and the feeling is reciprocated by a player loving his spell at the club.

He added. “It’s been brilliant, it’s a fight but we are up for it and I’m loving the experience. The whole atmosphere has been unbelievable and I’ve said that since I joined - it’s never changed.

Odoffin’s contract expires this summer but his sole focus is on preserving Hamilton’s top flight status

“That will all play out. My focus is just on the games, that has always been my focus. I’m not worried about anything because all I’m focused on is getting points,” Odoffin, concluded.

ODoffin was speaking at the announcement of Hamilton’s partnership with Sporting Pay as the clubs Official Payments Partner & Training Kit Sponsor in a four-year deal.

Sporting Pay will provide New Douglas Park with state-of-the-art payments solutions, including new Electronic Point of Sale terminals and contactless card payment machines around the stadium and our Accies Functions.

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