MICHAEL OGUNGBARO; UNRIVALLED POTENTIAL IN THE OBOS LIGAEN

The FC Midtjylland academy has produced some extremely talented footballers of late. Players such as Pione Sisto, Mikkel Duelund and Kristoffer Olsen have all come through the Danish clubs’ youth teams and are now playing either with the side or in a top league elsewhere.

(Photo: Digitalsports)

Michael Ogungbaro graduated from the same academy before joining FK Jerv in Norway’s second tier. After an impressive first season for the Grimstad side, Ogungbaro could soon become yet another impressive graduate of the Midtjylland academy.

It would be fair to suggest that upon arrival in Norway, Ogungbaro was something of an unknown quality. Having moved from FC Ebedei in his native Nigeria to Midtjylland in Denmark, Ogungbaro then failed to make a first team appearance for the side.

FK Jerv coach Arne Sandstø described Ogungbaro upon his arrival in Norway as; “a young player with great potential. He is fast and has extreme range both in the air and along the ground. He will be a player who in any case can cover the key spots on both the middle and defensive.”

The then 19 year old Nigerian was on trial with FK Jerv for a week prior to his move. Any follower of Norwegian football will know that the world of agents and trialists can be a murky one, with clubs taking on up to 10 players on trial every pre-season. Naturally, these trialists can be very hit and miss; there is only so much you can find out about a player in a week. Ogungbaro’s potential was spotted early on by the FK Jerv manager and he was signed on a 3 year deal, illustrating the faith the side placed in him.

The first couple of months went by as expected for Ogungbaro. The player sat on the bench throughout April and March as Jerv’s season began poorly, with big losses to Kongsvinger and Kristiansund. Ogungbaro’s full league debut finally came on the 21st May, in a 1-1 draw with Mjondalen. It was clear why Sandstø had not used Ogungbaro from the start previously, the player showed flashes of brilliance but looked a little naive on the pitch.

An injury to Dejan Corovic meant Ogungbaro also started the next game against Ull/Kisa and this was the first match in which Ogungbaro’s qualities really became evident. After a pretty average debut, Ogungbaro looked commanding in his new role as a centre back and kept a dangerous Ull/Kisa attack quiet for most of the game. His strength and aerial ability really stood out, it would be true to say that Michael Ogungbaro is a modern managers’ dream with his ability to pass out from the back.

It is clear that Ogungbaro’s natural position is in defensive midfield, but the skills he has learnt in this position matched with his physicality mean that he can also stand out in a defensive role too. Having filled in at both positions last season it will be interesting to see in which role his future will lie this year.

As last season progressed, more and more people started to notice Ogungbaro’s performances. I will never forget the four game spell against Mjondalen, Sandnes, Ranheim and Raufoss during the months of July and August in which Ogungbaro really came into his own as a footballer. Jerv won 3 of the four games, with Ogungbaro also scoring in 3 out of the 4.

It was in these games in which Ogungbaro really announced himself on the scene. The Nigerian proved that he can score goals from a deeper position in midfield as well as become a massive threat in set play situations with his aerial ability.

Michael Ogungbaro in action for FK Jerv against Asane. (DigitalSports)

Ogungbaro’s consistency meant that even with the returning Jan Jenssen, his place in the Jerv XI was more than cemented. At the end of last season, Ogungbaro started at CB when facing off against Stabaek in the promotion play off final. Once again, two dominant performances saw him catch the eyes of many pundits following the game who, despite the Jerv loss, saw the undeniable talent that Ogungbaro possesses.

So how good can this player really become? It is obvious that Ogungbaro has the physical attributes to be a top player outside of Norway. There are a few reservations about his technical skills but as last season progressed the players’ passing and dribbling improved tenfold. At just 20 years old and with another 2 years left on his Jerv deal, it would not surprise me to see the Grimstad side try and cash in on one of their prized assets next Winter. Ogungbaro could generate a nice amount of money for the side and move to a larger club should his good form continue into 2017.

The likely destination is the Eliteserien, where many clubs would benefit from having Ogungbaro at the base of their midfield. However, it would not surprise me if scouts from nations such as Holland and Germany were tracking the young Nigerian’s progress also.

There is no doubt in my mind that Ogungbaro can become an even better for Jerv this season. It is a promising time for the Grimstad side who house many of the OBOS Ligaen’s great young talents (Tonnesen, Aanonsen, Knutsen, Somdal etc.) and if Ogungbaro can improve his play further this year then he could well be the driving force behind yet another promotion push for the team.