Matty Hayward – @mattyhayward96
Gary Johnson said on August 5th that “this is the squad I’m going into the season with.” A month later, we’ve signed Dean Moxey and, now, Josh Umerah. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so keen to take Johnsons at their word.
Umerah’s arrival was announced by the club yesterday with little fanfare, but sometimes it is the understated, unexpected signings who make the greatest impact (see also: Ben Whitfield). But who is Josh Umerah? Where does he play on the pitch? Where has he played in the country? That’s literally why you’re here.
Josh Umerah is 23, and becomes the ninth player in our current squad to be born in 1997 (thanks to torquayfanstats for that one). Born in Catford, Umerah started his career at Charlton. His debut for The Addicks came as a second-half sub in a 6-0 defeat to Hull in January 2016. He had to wait until the following New Years’ Eve to make his second league appearance – five minutes at the end of a draw at Southend.
Perhaps understandably, the following January, the young striker moved on. He joined Scottish Premiership club Kilmarnock on loan, where he appeared four times but failed to trouble the scorers. His next loan destination was Wycombe, where he scored his opened his Football League account with goals against Cambridge and Barnet. His first season-long loan was at Boreham Wood where Josh notched six times in 20 games for the Meadow Park side.
Following his release from Charlton last summer, Umerah linked up with Ebbsfleet in the National League. He scored five times for the Fleet, most notably getting a brace in a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the mighty Yellows. Goals from Jake Andrews, Jamie Reid, Liam Davis and Matt Buse (!) were enough to take the Gulls over the line that day, but Umerah’s performance clearly made an impression on the Johnson Brothers because, after the Kent club were relegated by points per game, Gary swept in and offered him a contract.
Without meaning to sound like everyone’s dad, isn’t YouTube great? It’s quite bizarre that with a few words in a search engine you can be blessed with clips of Charlton Athletic under 18 games.
This first video, soundtracked by Stormzy, is the best you’ll find if you want to know what Umerah is about. It’s a compilation of buildup play, goals and (at least three!) rattlings of the woodwork, mostly from his Boreham Wood and Ebbsfleet days. What becomes abundantly clear is that Umerah is very strong, and is happy playing with his back to goal. There’s even one brief clip where he outstrengths the notoriously muscular Kalvin Kalala! But more than that, he seems determined to work hard and finishes well. Some of the strikes from the edge of the box are even, dare I say it, Reidy-esque.
There’s nothing else on the internet with as much depth as the previous video on Umerah, but here’s a tidy header at the back post to put Leeds’ U21s to the sword:
And finally, here’s a belter from his Charlton youth days, which apparently won September 2016’s Goal Of The Month:
As mentioned, Umerah is a strong, powerful centre forward. His Wikipedia says he’s 6ft1 but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s taller than that going off those clips. It’s also clear, though, that having him in the team needn’t mean aimless balls being lumped forward. He’s obviously very intelligent and more than capable of taking the ball to feet, bringing our many talented midfielders into play in dangerous areas. Indeed, although his goalscoring record is far from emphatic, he clearly has an eye for goal and it’d be worth remembering that at Ebbsfleet he was playing in a truly dreadful team. With the service that our creators can provide, he may well have much more success.
While you wouldn’t describe him as an experienced campaigner, Josh has played pretty much two whole seasons at National League level so he’s no rookie either. The hope is that we have unearthed a diamond and are able to offer this young lad a real springboard and kickstart his career to get back into the Football League and beyond.
Where He Fits
Umerah is the third out-and-out striker to be signed this summer. He joins Andy Nelson and Danny Wright in Gary’s renewed arsenal of forwards, and we would expect those three to compete for – depending on formation – one or two places up front throughout the season. The new man will, you’d have thought, have work to do to get into the side immediately considering how eager the gaffer was to sign up Nelson and Wright, but with games coming thick and fast and Wrighty being older than and as wooden as most oak trees, Umerah will certainly get an opportunity before long.
This is undoubtedly going to be a condensed season (especially with recent announcements, we may not even start on time!), so squad depth will be crucial and Umerah will certainly get a chance to shine. There’s no umming or ahhing from me: this is an exciting, and important, signing.
COYY – Matty