FREDDIE Ladapo’s first game of 2017-18 was at Old Trafford, in the Premier League.
Then a Crystal Palace player, the misfiring Eagles were desperate for a kick-start to their season, and called upon the inexperienced Ladapo as a substitute for Bakary Sako, as Manchester United inflicted more pain on Palace.
It might not have been a good day for the Eagles, but it was somewhat of a personal triumph for Ladapo. Two seasons previous, his first game was away to Havant and Waterlooville in the National League South, for Margate.
In fairness, it was Ladapo’s goals that had fired Margate to promotion the season before, and his untapped potential had caught the eye of Palace, who probably also noted Ladapo’s goalscoring form in a previous loan spell at Gray’s Athletic. A hat-trick in a trial game later, and Freddie was an Eagle.
The contrast in opening fixtures suggest perhaps two-thirds of a Goldilocks and the Three Bears parable with Ladapo. Surely his eye for goal and powerful 6ft2 frame was wasted seven tiers of football down, but it was a lot to ask of him to suddenly be deputising for Christian Benteke in the Prem. Too cold, too hot.
The Essex boy began with Colchester, but did not make their grade, despite loans to Thurrock, Chelmsford, Bishop’s Stortford, Woking and Nuneaton. A switch to Kidderminster proved no happier, but following a loan to Hayes, his move to the similar-sounding Gray’s started his incline.
Most recently, loan spells from Palace to Oldham and Shrewsbury in League One yielded goals, even if his five month stay at Southend most recently, did not.
It feels like it may be time for Olayinka Fredrick Oladotun Ladapo to find something that is juuuuust right.