We asked Luton Town legend & Nigerian international Enoch Showunmi some questions about his time at Kenilworth Road, playing for Nigeria, being a poet and what the future holds for him. He played over 300 times professionally, including spells at Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday, Bristol City & Notts County.
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It’s a lot of young footballers dream to play professionally and be paid for what they love doing. When did you really know you were good enough to take the step up?
So I was never at a team when I was younger. I joined an adult team (Willesden Constantine) at 17 and they told me I was good enough to play at a higher level. From then I thought maybe I could do it but ended in university at 18. Graduation came and an opportunity to play Luton in a friendly came and as they say they rest is history.
Could you tell us a little about your life growing up playing football? Was it apparent from an early age you were talented?
I was a late bloomer. I was generally the biggest so teams played me at centre half as a boy. I found it boring so used to take chances doing tricks in my own box so I eventually got moved to midfield. Only when I joined Luton did I start to play professionally.
You will be most well-known by Luton fans, where you have achieved somewhat of a cult status. You joined at a tough time for the club (a transfer embargo) so tell us a little about your move to Luton and your first experiences at the club.
As I said it was a preseason game I played against Luton, I actually played centre midfield I thought I played rubbish but was asked to come on trial as I was an athlete and got from box to box quickly. I think they didn’t know what to do with me so played me upfront. For 6 weeks I turned up with no pay at all. After I was on £40 expenses till I scored that hattrick at Brentford. Many times during that 8 month period I thought to quit but said to myself until they tell me not to come i’ll keep persevering. I had just graduated and had a job lined up but football was my real passion.
You spent a little over 3 years at Luton. What are the best memories you have at the club?
Enoch’s army, promotion, my debut in pro football, hat-trick that got my pro contract…too many good memories of the time there. The lads were great also.
You played over 300+ games in pro football. Which games stick in your mind and why?
My debut for sure I remember vividly at Plymouth…taken off after 40mins as ref was going to send me off. I thought football wasn’t for me after this game. My first professional goal at Rushden gave me untold confidence at the time and helped shape me as a player and the game to win promotion with Bristol City as fans stormed the pitch jumped on my back and stole my shirt boots shorts and shinpads.
Back in 2004 you did something few players do which is representing your country. (Enoch has 2 caps for Nigeria) Tell us about getting the call up & what it was like to play on a national stage.
It was all a bit surreal as I just come off my first season at a pro team. My first professional contract came in February, I had just won player of the month for the division, sky sports came to my house to interview me and then I get a call saying to join up with national team. I didn’t even think I’d play just train so I never even brought my shinpads. It was a proud moment for my whole family plus 2 great wins over Ireland and Jamaica.
What do you see as the defining moment in your football career?
2 games I think defined or gave my career a kickstart a 2-2 draw Stockport when Forbes got sent off and I came on and played well. And the Brighton game when I set up 2 goals in a 2-0 win both before I signed pro. But I think those 2 games gave management confidence in playing me more often and gave me the confidence for what happened after that.
You are one of the few pro footballers that studied outside of the sport, obtaining both a degree & a masters. What made you want to get these qualifications?
First degree I had obtained before I turned pro so it was me looking at what I wanted to do with my life. Football came a week after I graduated and changed the scope of my life. My masters was obtained at a time when at Leeds out of the blue I had a blood clot of my lungs & doctors were saying I may not play football again so I decided to go back to study. I ended up playing football again after being out for 7 months and also completed my masters in finance. I thought instead of wallowing I had to do something in case football wasn’t there anymore, whether it was from the blood clot or later down the line.
You have also spoken in the past about your love for poetry. Why did you begin writing it and what made you start?
Poetry came from my love of hiphop and putting words together, wordplay and clever double entredres and multiple syllabic rhyming. I also enjoyed music with a message. If you can entertain me and educate me at same time that was a cool skill. So that’s what I brought across (tried) in my poetry. I probably wanted to be a rapper before being a footballer lol.
Now you are out of pro football, how do you spend your time nowadays?
I still play just not on a professional level but you never know what the future holds I haven’t officially retired. I’m involved in a project in Florida which should help kids in the area get college scholarships and also a chance to progress to a professional level. Also from my masters I learnt how it invest and trade stocks forex and commodities. So if anyone is looking to invest and earn a second income outside of the 9-5 I’m your guy! 🙂
What do you miss the most and what do you miss the least about playing professionally?
Doing something you love everyday, it’s a privilege not everyone can get to do that. I had that for 12 years. The banter with the lads and all the ups and downs that footie brings, it can make you or break you but it definitely shapes you.
What does the future hold for Enoch Showunmi?
I’m open I like to think my growing expertise in finance and football will merge at some point.
Quick fire questions:
Best player you’ve played with? Jay Jay Okocha
Played against? Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Best moment in your career? Signing pro
Best stadium you’ve played in? Ibrox
Favourite goal you scored? for Falkirk against Aberdeen
Strangest/Funniest moment? is this PG rated?
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