Brighton & Hove Albion defender Leon Balogun insists that his first two games in English football have been a positive experience ahead of this afternoon’s match with Fulham at the Amex Stadium.
The Nigerian has faced Manchester United and Liverpool so far, with the Cottagers next on the agenda this afternoon on the south coast – and the central defender has relished the experience so far.
He said, “When I first saw the schedule, I thought, ‘Oh that’s nice! I’ll get the real feeling straight off!’
“I am happy with the way it went – of course it could have been happier if we had grabbed a point in Liverpool – the coaching staff made a good job of preparing us and we handled it quite well.”
“Then also someone like Romelu Lukaku is very strong and I am happy I have played against players like him before with Nigeria - Manchester United are not in their best shape right now, but then at the same time I don’t want to talk down our own performance, because we were excellent that day. That’s why we won with three goals and we could have scored even more.”
Balogun spent the summer with the Super Eagles at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, playing all three of the side’s group stage matches, travelling after putting pen to paper on a deal with Albion at the end of May.
But he emphasised that his international experience doesn’t make him any different to those around him at the Amex Stadium.
“It was great for me but that shouldn’t make a difference. Yes, I have the experience but that doesn’t make me any more or less valuable than another player.
“Maybe in football terms, my market value, but as a human being it doesn’t make any difference and the reaction of the players here has been quite normal.
“Some ask me about the World Cup, but not too much. We all play football. The World Cup doesn’t count here anymore. Now it is about the Premier League and staying in there the second year.”
The summer recruit was also keen to praise manager Chris Hughton, and reflected positively on English football so far – recalling some of his favourite footballing memories.
“I had a couple of talks with the manager on the phone and I could tell from the way he was speaking that he embodies more or less what I imagine a gentleman is like.
“He’s very calm and very nice and polite. I see it in the way he treats the players, and is very respectful.
“English football overall is more physical, and the refs don’t call too many fouls. The game is more fluent and that’s why I wanted to come here.
“As a kid I remember watching Arsenal - Thierry Henry is my all-time favourite player and because of him, I became an Arsenal fan back then.
“That generation of 2003/04 was a really special team.”