Canadian Premier League director of football explains how he helped Luton beat Forest Green to Pepple's signature

Striker unveiled at Kenilworth Road yesterday

By Mike Simmonds
Wednesday, 3rd August 2022, 9:30 am
Luton have signed forward Aribim Pepple from Cavalry FC
Luton have signed forward Aribim Pepple from Cavalry FC

Canadian Premier League director of football Oliver Gage has revealed how he helped Luton Town to win the race for Cavalry FC striker Aribim Pepple ahead of League One Forest Green Rovers.

The 19-year-old forward had thrust himself into the limelight by breaking the record of scoring in five consecutive league matches for his side earlier this season, bagging six goals in seven appearances overall.

Such numbers alerted the interests of a host of clubs in England, as he was due to travel to Gloucestershire and train with the Nailsworth-based club who had a gentleman’s agreement the Kettering born player could trial with them in the summer, having won promotion to the second tier.

But with Luton also tailing the forward, and with Gage free to focus on promoting CPL players to teams around the world, he got in touch with those at Kenilworth Road to let them know that a deal could be done.

It led to Pepple following in the footsteps of duo Victor Loturi and William Akiow, who both joined Scottish Premiership side Ross County in June, plus Diyaeddine Abzi, who headed to Ligue 2 side Pau FC, as speaking to the Canadian Premier League official website, Gage said: “As soon as he suddenly started scoring goals, I was getting WhatsApp messages, phone calls, texts from several League One and Championship clubs.

"Even one English Premier League club showed an interest.

“Aribim’s breaking the league record for consecutive goals in games, all the rest of it, and Forest Green saw their chance to exercise that option, bring him in on trial and they were very interested in signing him.

“At which point I kind of got re-involved, because part of my mandate at the league is to be agnostic and work with all our teams, but also help Canadian players move to bigger and better places, which is why we set up this department in the league office.

“I put it front and centre on (Luton’s) radar that he was scoring goals, doing well, probably gonna sign with Forest Green, and they swooped in and took the chance to try and sign him themselves.

“We’re still in the very, very early stages of establishing ourselves as a league, in terms of reputation but also in terms of a network for our football.

“We haven’t got the benefit of years and years of history where people know of the Canadian Premier League, know the level, or even have done business with them in the past, or have got other players in their league that have come from there.

“It’s not like there’s someone in the Championship that came from the CPL and is doing well that make Luton want to say, ‘well, maybe we should go look in the CPL for the next guy.’

“We know our place in the food chain.

"If you’re outside the top five leagues in the world, you’re constantly developing players to compete for domestic trophies and create an infrastructure where you can graduate players out and bring new players in, I think that’s just a healthy part of the food chain.

"Aribim Pepple is another great example of it.

“The kid puts in a lot of work, has a lot of belief in himself and has backed himself, and he’s got this move because he’s gone out there and took the opportunity.”

When the Hatters first declared an first interest, Gage admitted it was very much based on the data collected about the player, which plays such a huge part in any transfer these days, especially when watching them first hand would prove difficult.

Town chief Nathan Jones admitted it was a ‘bold decision’ to act and bring the forward in, as the CPL director added: “Different clubs all have different processes.

“Luton immediately wanted loads of data on (Pepple); my background is in data, and my contact (at the club) is all about data, so we work with them on his playing data, his physical data from training and games, stuff like that.

“Other clubs are just like, send us some video.

"Everyone’s a little bit different, but generally it’s like, we go to 20 (clubs), maybe you get five semi-interested, give them what they need and that narrows it down to two or three after they’ve seen what they need to see.

“Year one was a grind, you were trying to convince people why they should look at us; you’re literally saying, ‘come and buy one of our players,’ but we’ve never sold anyone ever.

“So we’re kind of making up a price for a guy on the fly.

"Now we have a benchmark of what the price is for certain levels of players in our league, and we think it’s about right at the moment.

"It’s a lot easier to point to previous players we’ve sold and say, ‘well, based on this, we think Aribim Pepple is worth this.’”