x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Midfielder Eyong Enoh makes a big impression at Fulham

It is early days at Fulham but the Cameroonian’s aggression has got support from Craven Cottage supporters.

Eyong Enoh had to wait for his turn to play for Fulham, but the ball-winner has done well in four matches so far. Shaun Botterill / Getty Images
Eyong Enoh had to wait for his turn to play for Fulham, but the ball-winner has done well in four matches so far. Shaun Botterill / Getty Images

Despite not winning a game in which he has started, Fulham's on-loan defensive midfielder Eyong Enoh has enjoyed a satisfactory start at Craven Cottage since arriving from Ajax in January.

The Cameroonian, 27, came in because of Mahmadou Diarra's injury. He presents a more mobile option than the Malian, something Fulham fans have noted in recent games, and they will be keen for him to make the deal permanent at the end of the season. Enoh appears to be the favoured choice, having started Fulham's last four matches after a month when he could not get in the side.

It is the first time Enoh has appeared in England after a circuitous career which has seen him play in Cameroon, Northern Cyprus, South Africa and Holland, but he links up with his former manager Martin Jol and Urby Emanuelson, his former Ajax midfield colleague.

Emanuelson, on loan from AC Milan himself, has improved alongside Enoh and Jol may try to make the two permanent signings.

Enoh is a ball-winner and his robust style won him cult status among Ajax fans, but it comes at a price - he received more yellow cards than any other player at the club.

Enoh's aggression may be best suited to the more physical style of English football, though he will need to establish himself in a central midfield that has chopped and changed, with Giorgos Karagounis sometimes used, or Steve Sidwell when he is not suspended.

Diarra will recover from injury, too, while fans still have a nostalgia for the departed Danny Murphy. Enoh is not Murphy, but he is effectively auditioning for the part under Jol, which is the story of his career.

The intelligent son of a law graduate who became a customs officer and a teacher, he is used to stepping into the unknown and facing an immediate challenge following a nomadic career. By age 21 he was playing in his fourth country.

He moved from west Africa to Northern Cyprus because a teammate came from there, but playing in a football outpost was not the best move for career advancement and a trial was arranged for him at Ajax Cape Town in 2007 - the sister club to the Amsterdam giants which had provided them with Benni McCarthy and Stephen Pienaar.

Enoh's energetic and tenacious display saw him signed up after two days - a pattern which would be repeated.

He was named South African player of the Year for 2008, after which Ajax took first choice on the midfielder and flew him to Holland for a trial.

"The trial went well," he said, modestly. So well that the four-times European Cup winners produced a contract after two days. A debut goal against rivals Feyenoord saw the deeply religious Enoh quickly cement his first team place, being compared with Claude Makelele.

Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez may have grabbed the headlines and was linked with the biggest teams, but Enoh was the Amsterdam club's best player in 2009/10, the season he won the first of his 27 Cameroon caps.

His first came after was told to report to the training camp of his national team in Brussels.

He initially thought the request was a joke, someone taking advantage of the turmoil in the national team at the time.

Persuaded that it was genuine, he drove from Amsterdam, where he plays his club football with Ajax, to the Belgian capital.

His suspicions were partly confirmed when he arrived - the coach who called him had just walked out on the team, leaving Enoh to explain that he had genuinely been called up to bewildered officials. This, for a country ranked 11th in the world at the time.

For now Fulham are comfortable, occupying 11th place in the Premier League.

Can Enoh make himself as comfortable in Fulham's midfield?

 

sports@thenational.ae