It’s nice to break records, better to win games, says Awoniyi

Angela James
Angela James

Still smarting in the euphoria of picking up from his exploit last season and scoring in the opening matches of the Premier League this season, Nottingham Forest striker Taiwo Awoniyi is happy that he has also helped the team to win important matches.

He said it is better for the team to win games than to score individual honours. “Breaking records is good but I’m happier when we win matches,” said Awoniyi.

The Nigerian player, who ended last season with six goals in four Premier League matches, has scored in each of Forest’s opening three games this season he says he would be happier winning matches for his team.

Though, he scored against EPL top teams Arsenal and Manchester United, Forest ended on the losing side on both occasions.

Forest crashed 2-1 to Arsenal while United came back to win 3-2.

The Super Eagles player said he works hard and looks forward to improve in all aspect of his game, whether it’s finishing, or holding up plays that feel so comfortable for him and he wants to do it more to help the team.

“If possible, in every game I want to score but I also want to help my team. As a striker, you have to help the team, bringing them to play, running in behind, and disturbing opponents’ defense because you are the man up front.

“There are things you need to do more behind the scenes, drills during off-season, it’s all about relentless and giving it all.”

“For me, I’m very pleased and happy with the way things are going, not just for me but the whole squad with the way we have come back into the new season and going in the right place.”

“Looking at last season with the new guys coming in, we are trying to get together and we are getting familiar with one another, so we are trying to improve beyond where we were last season and that is what we are doing presently,” he stated.

”I know what my mate is doing on and off the pitch and we kind of understand one another better and that’s why the goals are coming, When you learn to start playing together as a team, the points will start coming.”

The Kwara-born star, whose career kicked off in England with Liverpool, before he left for Germany on loan, said he has faced challenges all his life. The difficulties have made him tough.


He said of his past and growing up Nigeria in another interview.

“There is pressure in football but for many African players, growing up is difficult. In some cases they have seen the other side of life and that helps.

“I’ve been in a situation as a child where I had to go to bed without food. There are times I had to walk an hour just to get to a training ground.“My dad is a retired officer and his earnings were not enough to cater for the whole family so growing up was really tough. Sometimes you are the one who has to find means for yourself.

“Of course your mum and dad want to do everything they can for you but growing up, you see limits of what they can do. The best you can do is try to help as much as you can.

“This is what really inspired me to be who I am today. It gave me the courage to think if I can go through all this, I can go through anything, even the worst parts of life.

“Everyone wants to have a better life and I have adapted to many situations. Wherever I needed to go, I went. If it was Germany, Holland or the UK, that’s fine.

“I’ve gone through different stages of difficulty and it helps me on the pitch. I’ve had to work things out for myself. It’s helpful to have been through those experiences.”

Awoniyi’s calmness derives from the obstacles he has overcome to arrive at this point, which means he treats sporting pressure as a privilege. Awoniyi is the first player from Kwara state, in the west of Nigeria, to make it to the Premier League.

He joined Liverpool aged 18 but was not granted a work permit, so he had seven different loan spells in three countries before he signed for Forest last summer, for £17.5million, from Union Berlin.

Awoniyi’s first season at Forest was interrupted by a three-month injury absence but he still made a valuable contribution with 10 league goals. His tally included winners against West Ham, Liverpool, Southampton and Arsenal, which helped secure the points to keep Steve Cooper’s team in the league.

The strike against Liverpool on October 22 last year felt particularly significant. Awoniyi realised a childhood dream when he signed for the Reds in 2015, but at first he was unable to secure a work permit because he was not part of the senior Nigeria squad.

Though Awoniyi performed well on loan in Holland, Belgium and Germany, it was not enough to make the breakthrough at Anfield, where Jurgen Klopp was in charge of one of Europe’s strongest squads.

It was a conversation with Klopp, however, that persuaded Awoniyi to accept a permanent move to Union Berlin in 2021, after another impressive loan stint.

‘It was my first pre-season training camp with Liverpool when the offer from Union came in,’ recalls Awoniyi. ‘Jurgen Klopp told me, “I think it’s good for you, Taiwo, because if a club is really pushing for you then it shows how much they believe in you.”

‘Those words really stuck with me. He is someone I really respect a lot. When I was out on loan he would always keep in touch with me.

“And after I scored the winner against Liverpool, he said, ‘Hey Taiwo, well played.’ “So many people from Liverpool texted me after the game saying, we are happy for you, we are proud of your journey. It was a great feeling.”

In all these challenges, Awoniyi has remained calm and grateful.


Awoniyi is grateful for the tutelage that his tough background has impacted on him. And to show his appreciation, he has returned home at the slightest opportunity to impact on the community.

After leading Forest out of relegation zone , he came back home to give to his alma mater and community, and his passion for football and philanthropic activities have endeared him to the hearts of many people in the state.

He developed his skills playing football on the streets of Ilorin- Kwara State and soon joined a local football Unicorn Football Academy, where he was discovered by a talent scout who spotted his raw talent and potential.

Awoniyi moved to Imperial Academy where he made his professional debut and soon became a key player for the club.

His impressive performances caught the attention of top football clubs in Europe, and in 2015, he was signed by Liverpool FC in England.

He has launched several philanthropic initiatives in the state, aimed at improving the lives of young people and promoting the development of football in the region.

During the Premiership break, Awoniyi visited Ilorin General Hospital unannounced to support the needy and patients who can’t afford certain bills or the other.

He even took the bill of a cancer patient who needed around half a million naira to complete a circle ahead of the next stage of her treatment.

One of his major initiatives is the Awoniyi Youth Football Tournament, which he launched in 2019, the competition is now dubbed “Never Stop Dreaming Cup”.

The tournament is aimed at identifying and nurturing young football talents in Kwara State, and providing them with an opportunity to showcase their skills on a national and international level.

The tournament features several teams from across the state, and provides young players with an opportunity to learn from coaches and football professionals.

Awoniyi has also launched a scholarship scheme for young people in Kwara State, aimed at ensuring that children from disadvantaged backgrounds have access to education.

The scheme provides financial assistance to children in need, covering the cost of school fees, uniforms, books, and other school supplies.

As a result of his philanthropic activities, Awoniyi has become a role model for many young people in Kwara State. His commitment to giving back to his community, and promoting the development of football and education, has earned him the respect and admiration of people in the state.

This attracted the state governor AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq who hosted him in his office in July.

He said of Awoniyi during the meeting. “he has contributed hugely to the growth of local football talents by helping young people to shine like him. Similarly, he has continued to give back to the communities that raised him in various areas, including education and healthcare. That typifies good leadership and a great connection to his roots.”

After signing 30 players last season, Forest have been quieter in the market this summer and this may be another demanding campaign for Cooper’s men.

Yet Awoniyi sees clear parallels with Union. Traditionally in the shadow of Hertha in Germany’s capital, Union have been one of the best stories in German football in recent years. Awoniyi’s 15 league goals helped the club finish fifth in 2021-22 before they went one better last season and qualified for the Champions League.

Nobody would bet on Forest emulating that effort but Union’s achievements have shown Awoniyi what is possible. “It was part of the reason why I came to Forest. Sitting with the manager and the owners, I saw the same thing as when I joined Union. I look at the fans and realise it’s exactly what happened with Union. Forest probably have even more supporters and both sets are as loud as ever.

‘There is a family instinct at Forest as there is at Union. So it’s part of the same process. It shows that as long as you have the right set-up and the right plan, you can do anything in football,” added Awoniyi.

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