‘A natural goalscorer’ – Profile of new Doncaster Rovers signing Fejiri Okenabirhie
Forward Fejiri Okenabirhie could be on his way to Doncaster Rovers from Shrewsbury Town this month.
Here we take a look at the career and life so far for the 23-year-old who could soon be wearing the red and white of Rovers.
February 25, 1996. Hendon, London.
Shrewsbury Town, contracted until the summer of 2020
HE WAS A YOUNG GUNNERLondon-born Okenabirhie was on the books of Arsenal until the age of 16 and played alongside the likes of Alex Iwobi and Ainsley Maitland-Niles while at the club.
HIS FIRST TEAM DEBUT CAME EARLY
After his release by Arsenal, Okenabirhie was snapped up by Stevenage where he was eventually given apprentice terms. While still an apprentice, he was handed his debut with an appearance off the bench in a League One clash with Bristol City in April 2014 as an 18-year-old. It quickly led to a full debut, coming just five days later against Walsall. He would make one other appearance that season.
HE IS A CLEVER LAD
The devout Christian seems to have always had one eye on his future following his early career setbacks. While an apprentice, he studied an A Level in psychology as well as a BTEC. And after dropping down to non-league, he took it one step further by beginning an Open University degree in Business and Management, which he continues to study today.
FROM FIRST YEAR PRO TO RELEASE
Okenabirhie signed his first professional contract in May 2014 - a one-year deal. But that year saw little progress from the promise of the end of the previous season. He had three loan spells in that campaign, from Conference South to the Southern League Division One Central. On his return to Stevenage he was released.
BUILDING BACK UP
Trials with Millwall and Barnet followed his release by Stevenage but he was unsuccessful in earning a contract. In November 2015 he joined Harrow Borough of the Isthmian League. Despite Harrow struggling that season he scored ten goals in 34 appearances.
ANOTHER BIG STEP
Okenabirhie was snapped up by Dagenham and Redbridge as they dropped out of the Football League in the summer of 2016. He scored on debut on the opening day of the season and did enough to earn an extension to his initial two-year contract.
HE HAS AN INTERNATIONAL HAT TRICK TO HIS NAME
He was spotted by England C selectors while playing for Dagenham and made his debut in May 2017 against Panjab. Other caps came against Jersey and Slovakia before he scored a hat trick against Wales in March 2018. It saw him named England C player of the year for the 2017/18 season.
Okenabirhie is eligible to feature for Nigeria due to his parentage. He was called up for the country’s U17 side in 2012 at short notice but turned down.
BACK INTO THE LEAGUE
Okenabirihie returned to the EFL with a switch to Shrewsbury Town for an undisclosed fee in June 2018. He made a major impact in the first campaign, scoring 16 goals in 49 appearances to finish as top scorer as help the Shrews secure League One survival. Such was his contribution, Shrews boss Sam Ricketts said Okenabirhie would be his primary striker for the 2019/20 campaign.
Despite Ricketts’ words, the situation for the forward has not panned out as predicted. He has managed just ten starts across all competitions so far this season, with a record of three goals in 24 appearances in total. A hamstring injury early in the season robbed him of a month of action but he has struggled to force his way back in. Rickett’s use of a lone striker system seems not to favour Okenabirhie.
2018-present - Shrewsbury Town - 73 appearances, 19 goals
2016-2018 - Dagenham & Redbridge - 69 appearances, 19 goals
2012-2014 - Stevenage - 3 appearances
WHAT THEY SAID
His manager at Dagenham, John Still: “He can also play wide, he’s quick and strong.”
Danny Coyne, former caretaker boss at Shrewsbury Town: “He'll score goals that lad. For me he's a natural goalscorer, that's why I try to get him on the pitch all of the time. He just looks to score all of the time, and he looks to run in behind as well.”
Shrewsbury boss Sam Ricketts: “Fey is a natural goalscorer, that’s what he is. His desire to work, press and harry has to be a given for all players. There’s an awful lot in there to get out of him. What he is is a natural goalscorer. Give him the ball in the box and he’ll hit the target. Then, more often than not, he’ll score more goals.”