Little more than eight years ago, Cameroon defender George Elokobi stepped onto English soil for the first time. With no professional football career to speak off, even he could not have predicted such an impressive rise up the footballing ladder.
Elokobi settled in Welling he joined up with nearby non-league side Dulwich Hamlet, who are no strangers in helping the development of Premier League players. Peter Crouch, Marlon King and Leon Cort are just some of the players who spent time at Champion Hill.
An impressive 2003-04 season helped draw the attention of League One side Colchester United. The manager of the U’s at the time was Phil Parkinson and he decided to take Elokobi to Layer Road in June 2004.
Having not appeared for the first team for the first part of the season, Parkinson allowed Elokobi to join Chester City on loan in early 2005. Under the management of Ian Rush, the defender made his league debut against Swansea on January 29th. However, the loan spell turned out to be a disappointing one, with Chester losing the five games that Elokobi played in – with the final game ending prematurely after he got himself sent off.
The following season at Colchester turned out to be more successful as Elokobi forced his way in to the first team. Colchester had a good season themselves, securing promotion to the Championship by finishing runners-up in the division. The season also saw Elokobi score his first ever goal, during an LDV Vans Trophy match against Northampton.
In the 2006-07, Elokobi made 10 league appearances as Colchester confounded everyone and finished 10th in the Championship. In the following season, Elokobi managed to make 17 appearances for Colchester as they struggled to repeat the impressive form they showed in the previous season. Despite scoring his first league goal, towards Christmas Elokobi found himself out of favour and, with the team near the bottom of the league, he handed in a transfer request.
On deadline day of the January 2008 transfer window, Mick McCarthy brought Elokobi to Molineux. All of a sudden, he found himself challenging for promotion instead of battling relegation! Elokobi established himself in the first team and made 15 appearances as Wolves narrowly missed out on a play-off position.
The 2008-09 season started well for Elokobi, who was now considered the first-choice left-back at Molineux. However, just a few games into the campaign, he suffered knee ligament damage during a match against Ipswich. The injury kept him out for the rest of the season and he had to watch on as Wolves stormed to the Championship title.
With the new Premier League campaign approaching, Elokobi worked hard to up his fitness. After being named on the bench for the opening two games, he made his Premier League debut when he came on as a substitute in the 1-0 defeat at Manchester City. He went on to make over 20 appearances as Wolves successfully avoided relegation and finished in 15th place.
So far this year, George has been in and out of the team, but he did score his first Wolves goal during the Carling Cup defeat at Manchester United last month. However, his biggest achievement came early this week when he was called up to the Cameroon squad for the first time. He will join up with the likes of Samuel Eto’o and Alex Song at a training camp in France ahead of crucial fixtures against Senegal next year.
The Cameroon-born left-back, who proudly sports Cameroon sweatbands every match, truly is a rags to riches story. Elokobi is possibly one the most “physically gifted” players around, as he looks more like a quarter-back than a left-back when he lines up for Wolves.
I think it is fair to say that everyone can be happy for George, who has worked his way up the footballing ladder at an alarming rate. Let’s just hope Javier Clemente has enough faith to give George his international debut – well, I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one to tell him he’s no playing!