Ex-Hatter Mark Pembridge happy to see Adebayo making a name for himself after leaving Fulham

Former Cottagers attacker is flourishing following move to Luton

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 6:30 am
Elijah Adebayo wins a header for the Hatters against Preston

Former Luton midfielder Mark Pembridge is happy to see striker Elijah Adebayo making a name for himself at Kenilworth Road.

The ex-Hatter, who played 70 times during his three year spell with the Hatters between 1989-92, has been working at Premier League side Fulham’s academy for the past 15 years, and is currently joint U23s head coach.

During his stint with the Cottagers, he worked closely with Adebayo, after the striker joined Fulham as a nine-year-old, moving through the various age ranks at Craven Cottage until his departure in 2019, but didn't make a first team appearance, although did score two in three Checkatrade Trophy appearances for the U23s.

Elijah Adebayo has an effort for Fulham U23s against Charlton

On the attacker, Pembridge said: “I worked with him a lot when I was doing the U15s, 16s, he came through, so as he moved up, I moved up as well.

“When I went to U16s, 18s and then first team for a year, I came back down to the 23s, and he was in the 23s as well.

“He was always a keen learner, willing to listen, talk things through and have a discussion about things.

“If he had any problems he would quite happily come and talk to me about them, try and solve them, which is what you want from young players.

“He was a good character in the dressing room with the boys and quite popular as well.”

Had things panned out differently for Adebayo, he could have potentially forged a career trying to stop goals going in rather than attempting to score them, as Pembridge continued: “He started off as a centre forward and then went to be a defender for a little while.

“He had a go at centre back and didn’t really like it, it didn’t work out there, so he went back to centre forward.

“Technically he was very good and for a tall lad he’s not slow either, covers the ground quite quickly, good first touch and he can finish.”

With Fulham a Premier League club during Adebayo’s time in southwest London, it meant the opportunity of breaking into the first team was difficult, as after various spells on loan with Slough, Bognor Regis, Cheltenham, Swindon and Stevenage, he left permanently in the summer of 2019 to join Walsall and get regular first team football.

Despite admitting it was tough to see him depart, Pembridge felt it was the right move for his career, saying: “He left us because he wasn’t getting in the first team and he couldn’t really play another year of U23s football, he needed that next challenge of going out and playing men’s football.

“Him and Stephen Humphreys played up front, so they both got clubs and they needed to get out.

“I think that was the next challenge for him, having played 23s, and not getting involved with our first team at any stage, the next stage we see in these boys progression, if they can’t play in Fulham’s first team, can we get them out to somebody else’s first team?

“We got them out on loan to give them that men’s first team experience and hopefully try and set him up so he knows that when he does leave the football club it’s not rabbits in headlights kind of thing, he’s used to it and he knows what to expect.

“It is hard because they’ve not succeeded at your football club but that’s our job to set them up to make sure they get the next best thing then, which is involved in another league club.

“It’s more him getting back on the ladder, back into league football and playing, getting games under his belt and making a profile for himself.

“You knows he’s always going to score as he’s a decent finisher, so he’s always going to get chances and always going to score goals.

“For him the main thing was to just get games and get himself a profile.”

When Adebayo made the move to Kenilworth Road during the recent transfer window, it was a popular choice for one member of the Pembridge family in particular, as the Welshman added: “Looking at him now, he’s obviously taken those smaller steps back up the ladder which is really good to see, from someone who has left and gone to Walsall and is now playing in the Championship.

“I do tend to watch the Luton games when I can, as many as I can, I even try and get to the games as my wife’s a Luton Town supporter.

“If they’re playing in London and time is convenient for us, me and my wife will get to the Luton games.

“So I do watch his progression and all the other boys too.

“I watch the results come in, and say, ‘oh yeah, he used to be with us, he used to be with us,’ which is good to see.”