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FOOTBALL: City play part in Anya's rise
OXFORD City played a small, but vital role in setting flying winger Ikechi Anya on the road to international stardom.
That is the view of boss Mike Ford, who worked with the talented youngster when he was at the club back in 2007.
The Glasgow-born 25-year-old has since become a regular at Championship side Watford, and last week scored for Scotland in their World Cup qualifying 2-1 win in Macedonia.
It is a far cry from his spell at City six years ago, when he played 12 times in the Southern League.
Ford, then assistant to manager Justin Merritt, said he wasn’t surprised by the success of Anya, who joined after being released by Wycombe Wanderers.
“Someone who knew him said he was sitting at home doing nothing, so we invited him along to training,” said Ford.
“You could tell in that first session, in fact, within the first ten minutes, that he was something special.
“He had a fantastic talent. He had pace and he also had a trick, which is vital in that position.”
Ford added: “My only question mark about his ability was mentally – did he have the right attitude to make it as a full-time professional?
“No disrespect to those clubs, but he must have played at some awful places, with 25 people watching and thought ‘do I really want to play at this level or pull myself around and be a professional footballer?’
“If his time here helped him toughen up, then I would suggest as a club that we did our bit to help him.”
After leaving City, Anya joined the Glenn Hoddle Academy before he signed for Sevilla, later moving to Granada from where he joined Watford on-loan last season.
He signed a three-year deal with the Hornets in the summer, but it’s his goal for Scotland that has made people sit up and take note.
On his first goal for his country, Anya said: “It was amazing. I can’t really explain how it felt. It was perfect.
“When you go on the pitch, you just focus on giving it your all. Sometimes you play good and sometimes you play bad. Luckily for me, things went well.”
Ford added: “The game I best remember is when we played Weston-super-Mare in the cup.
“We were 3-0 down and he came on and it was 3-3 in no time – he absolutely tore them apart.”
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