D3D4 Colchester United Correspondent Piers Palmer profiles a player who, although no longer with his club, left a lasting impression…
George Elokobi – The charismatic Cameroonian – By Piers Palmer
Although many football fans may not know him as so, George Elokobi has been a Colchester United fan favourite since his debut in 2005. That season being the club’s infamous and unforgettable season that ended in promotion (for the first and only time in the club’s history) to the second tier of English football. Therefore forever solidifying himself in Col U folklore.
The passion and effort he put in for every club he went to seemed to make him a fan favourite wherever he went. Indeed, even for fans of clubs he didn’t play for. Elokobi is famous among fans for being the second heaviest player in the Football League (after Adebayo Akinfenwa). Second heaviest, yes, but possibly most ripped. As funny as it might sound, football fans always marvel at the physique of a player. Elokobi’s abs have possibly made him more famous and formidable than his performances on the pitch.
Mind you, the left-back’s entry into Football League fame was not a most regular one. Born in Mamfe, Cameroon, George was raised by his Grandmother; his Mother was studying in England (which would eventually lead to him flying over) and his Father and Grandfather both tragically died within a very short time period of one another. With George’s Mother sending money over to her son, the young man had the fortune of going to a private school. Eventually, after finishing school, he moved to London. Here, his career could begin.
He didn’t have to wait very long for a professional contract. Only two years after arriving in England, in the summer of 2004 at the age of 18, Colchester United signed the young left-back. Unfortunately, opportunities were hard to come by at The U’s. In January 2005, he was loaned out to Chester City where he made his professional debut. After 5 appearances, most of which were defeats and a final appearance ending in a red card, one would forgive Elokobi for thinking professional football wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. However, Colchester could see the potential of the young Cameroonian and despite him never playing for them; he was offered a new deal with the club. He accepted without having even the slightest inkling, much like everyone else associated with the club, of the unforgettable season that was to come.
The infamous 2005-2006 season was one that would put every player, including George Elokobi, in the Col U history books. Colchester United finished 2nd in League One making it into The Championship for the first time in their history. George Elokobi only made 12 league appearances that season but that didn’t matter. In only his second season as a professional footballer, he’d achieved promotion. The fans loved the young Cameroonian and could see what a player he would become.
Unfortunately, during the 2006-2007 campaign George’s opportunities were even harder to come by as Cardiff loanee Chris Barker became stalwart at left-back for The U’s. Elokobi had two less appearances than the previous season. A dream season for Colchester was a frustrating one for George.
The 2007-2008 campaign was much less fruitful for The U’s but much more prolific for Elokobi. The team was relegated that season but Elokobi’s skill and ability at left-back was recognized by other clubs. Even Celtic showed interest in the player but after handing in a transfer request, it was Wolverhampton Wanderers who signed him in January 2008.
Elokobi enjoyed a prolific 3 years at Wolves. He became an instant fan favourite (naturally) and even achieved promotion to the Premier League. Unfortunately, his time was marred by regular and serious injury problems, but the beast often came back sooner than expected. His positivity and keenness to play football kept him out of the medical room and in the fans’ hearts.
However, the 2011-2012 season seemed to spell the beginning of the end for the left-back’s time at Wolves. Over the next few years, he fell out of favour as things started to implode within the club. Relegation from the Premier League, then from The Championship, money problems and managerial instability meant that steady and frequent opportunities were hard to come by for George.
After being loaned out first to Nottingham Forest, then Bristol City and being offered a ‘fresh start’ at Wolves numerous times in between, in the summer of 2014, George Elokobi finally severed his ties with the club and, after being released, joined League One outfit: Oldham Athletic. Frustratingly, it seemed that Elokobi jumped out the frying pan and into the fire. Instability at Oldham and a managerial change meant that his chances at The Latics were limited. Surprisingly, the club did offer him a new – but reduced – contract which he rejected. Elokobi left Oldham at the end of the 2014-2015 campaign.
Luckily, there was a little club in North Essex that needed an experienced defender. So, over ten years after first signing for Colchester United: the prodigal son returned. Elokobi signed a two year contract. He was brought in to sure-up a young team that were consistently being threatened with relegation from League One.
Personally, I was unhappy with the club re-signing George. His wages were expensive, he was unfit and it seemed as though he was merely seeing out the final days of his career. Following relegation from League One at the end of the 2015-2016 campaign and a loan move to Braintree Town – it would seem that my trepidation was well placed.
However, upon Elokobi’s return from Braintree in November 2016, Colchester looked a tough team to break down with a solid defence. He was the experienced, level-headed all-rounder that the defence needed. He no longer confined himself to left-back, as duty required him to be right in the middle of the defence: a position which he took to like a duck to water.
Not only was his presence essential for the players, but for the fans also. Elokobi showed passion for the club – something that a league full of loan players struggles to find. It was refreshing to see a player care for and have fun playing for Colchester. His drum playing antics (youtube it) and goal of the season typified his love for the club.
Unfortunately Elokobi has left Colchester United after being unable to agree terms for a new contract. He will be hugely missed by the club but he joined Leyton Orient of the Conference National and they are extremely lucky to have him!
words Piers Palmer D3D4 Colchester United Correspondent