19/08/2010 05:12:30
Djemba-Djemba redeemed himself at Odense
The name must still send shivers down Sir Alex Ferguson’s spine. When the time comes to look back on the Scot’s glittering Manchester United reign, the signing of Djemba-Djemba will rank as a low.
Herald Scotland
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It seems preposterous to recall that the Cameroonian was once lauded as a potential successor to the peerless Roy Keane. Plucked from Nantes in the summer of 2003, Ferguson paid over £3m for Djemba-Djemba’s services but the midfielder flopped spectacularly at Old Trafford. “Aye, he was no Roy Keane,” Sir Alex later admitted.

Spells with Aston Villa, Burnley and Qatar SC followed as Djemba-Djemba threatened to fall off the radar completely. Then Odense rode to the rescue. In Denmark, Djemba-Djemba’s reputation has been rebuilt to the extent that West Brom recently failed with a seven-figure bid.

Tonight, Djemba-Djemba is expected to take his usual place in the Odense midfield as the Danish side attempt to outmanoeuvre Motherwell and, according to his free-scoring sidekick, the hapless performances of his ill-fated Manchester sojourn are a thing of the past.

“I learn something from Eric every day,” said Hans Henrik Andreasen, currently the leading scorer in Danish football. "It is a pleasure to play with him at Odense. For me, he is a true international star and we are fortunate to have him in our team".

"He is a special player and I enjoy playing beside him in midfield. He is strong, he can tackle and pass the ball well. I like to get forward, so we work well together and I think the manager likes us as a partnership."

“Eric is one of our best players, but there are a lot of other internationalists in the squad, like Peter Utaka from Nigeria. We have a good balance of Danish players and foreigners. The mix works well.”

Andreasen is in the midst of a hot streak, having bagged five goals in as many games. Four of those have come via his blonde head, but the 31-year-old expects Motherwell to be able to match this aerial prowess.

He said: “It’s true that I have had some success in the air recently, but I expect that to be one of the strongest areas of Motherwell’s game. I know they will be very powerful at set-pieces so I don’t expect it to be easy to score in that way.”

Without being disrespectful, Andreasen openly admitted that he knows nothing of Motherwell but was in the process of seeking out popcorn to see him through the DVD extravaganza planned by Lars Olsen, the Odense manager. “We will be fully aware of Motherwell by kick-off,” he said. “I expect a strong, physical, fast team.”

Quizzed about his wider knowledge of Scottish football and the answer comes instantly – “I know Duncan plays with Celtic” – Duncan, of course, being Morten Rasmussen, Celtic’s lesser-spotted Danish striker who is nicknamed after Duncan Ferguson.

“Like most people from Denmark, I respect Scottish football a lot,” he said. “Brian Laudrup had so much success for Rangers, while Celtic have had a few Danes over the years like [Marc] Rieper and [Thomas] Gravesen. They were some of the best Danish players of their generation, so it shows that Scottish football is at a good level.”

Given their pedigree and greater international experience, Odense have been installed as favourites to reach the group stages of the Europa League, but the diplomatic Andreasen disagrees. “The tie is 50/50,” he said. However, he did concede that the draw had been kind to both clubs.

“When you looked at the teams in the draw, both Motherwell and Odense were probably satisfied with what happened,” he said. "It’s a hard draw, but it could have been harder for both of us, so anything is possible."

“I respect Motherwell and I believe we will have to be at our best to qualify. We have an advantage of being home first, but if Motherwell score, we lose that. We need to win the home leg, but I also feel we must make sure Motherwell don’t get an away goal. That is vital.”


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