Steve McQueen fan Akpo Sodje: Scunthorpe United don't need Great Escape
IF EVER there was an indication Akpo Sodje was ready for a battle against relegation, it's the fashion the striker sports on his first full day at Scunthorpe United.
Not long after completing his first training session with the Iron, the 32-year-old speaks to the Scunthorpe Telegraph of his readiness to help fire the Iron out of trouble.
Equally as reassuring is the T-shirt the much-travelled front man displays as he dons a United kit to pose for pictures.
It features an iconic image of film star Steve McQueen, famously aboard a TR6 Trophy motorcycle. As Great Escapes go, Sodje – who is well versed in beating the drop – accepts the Iron don't need anything as great.
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"At Sheffield Wednesday we had two seasons like this, fighting relegation, and we stayed up," says the striker, the youngest of 10 children and the 'baby' of one of football's most-famous families.
"The gaffer knows what he is doing, he knows the situation Scunthorpe are in and how to handle it.
"I've no doubt we'll all handle it well and properly.
"When you look at it, we're only a point away from getting out of the bottom four. Win on Saturday (when they travel to Colchester United, the side one point and place above them in League One) and we're out of it – we're due a good run soon.
"Colchester is an important game, but every game from now until the end of the season is a big one.
"The priority for this club is to stay up. Starting from Saturday, the next game is always as big as any game that is going to come."
There are several connections between Scunthorpe and Sodje, which leads the powerful front man to say he knows 'plenty' about the club where he will stay until the end of the season.
The most obvious one is the manager. Brian Laws signed Sodje when in charge of Wednesday and the player admits the chance to work with him again was an attraction with the opportunity to come to Glanford Park.
"He looked after me – and he knows how to get the best out of me," says the London-born front man, whose brother Efe, 40, is also embroiled in the League One relegation battle, at Bury.
Those Iron fans with long memories though will remember Sodje's decision to join the Owls from Port Vale five years ago came at the expense of a Scunthorpe side looking to establish themselves in the Championship.
Both parties will hope it proves to be a case of better late than never.
"At that time, it was the right decision for me to go to Sheffield Wednesday," he says of his Iron snub.
"I'd come through at Port Vale and wanted to play in the Championship with a club I knew.
"I didn't know anything about Scunthorpe, but I do now. I've played against them loads of times.
"My profile was probably at its highest. I'd scored goals for Port Vale and once you see a chance like that, you have to take it.
"When a team like Sheffield Wednesday come calling, it's not very often someone says no."
The same cannot be said about Preston North End, the League One club with whom Sodje scored seven times in 17 games during the opening half of the current campaign.
At Deepdale, there was the opportunity to remain. But only on a month-to-month contract.
Sodje is keen to reward Scunthorpe, a club he says he picked ahead of offers from sides much higher up the table, for the security they have afforded him.
"I've got a few goals this season and hopefully I can get a few more," says Sodje, who returned to England last summer on the back of eight months with Chinese Premier League side Tianjin Teda.
"I'm just looking forward to playing again.
"At Preston I had a chance to come back into this country, having been away for two years, and I've been pleased with how I started.
"I had to leave Preston because I wanted a more secure deal, a longer one, to be settled.
"Playing on a month to month contract wasn't ideal for a striker. Every month I was thinking 'am I going to be moving, or staying?'.
"Leaving Preston was a risk, because I didn't know I would sign for anybody else, but I had to take that chance and put myself in the shop window.
"I'm glad I did. I'm happy to have signed for Scunthorpe."