Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe returns to Derry City on loan from Dundalk
RUAIDHRI HIGGINS believes Derry City can become ‘a real attacking force’ following the addition of striker Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe who arrives for a second spell at Brandywell on loan from Dundalk.
The 27 year-old Londoner topped the league’s goalscoring charts during his last stint on Foyleside in 2019 with 14 goals, scoring 16 in all competitions after 36 appearances for the Candy Stripes.
He has so far failed to repeat those impressive stats since his League of Ireland return last year but his stay at Sligo lasted just six months while he joined Derry on a six month loan spell after serving the first five months of his one year contract at the Lilywhites where he has made 13 appearances, scoring twice.
Higgins is confident the former Colchester United striker can rediscover his best form with the Candy Stripes and following the recent signing of Jamie McGonigle from Crusaders, he’s delighted with his attacking options.
And the City boss was grateful for Dundalk’s Director of Football, Jim Magilton for facilitating the move for a player he rates highly.
“Jim Magilton has been very, very good,” said Higgins. “Very facilitating and he’s got a really good relationship with Paddy McCourt here at the club. The two of them have worked away in the background to make this happen.
“Obviously he’s a player I really like. He scored against us a couple of times whenever I was at Dundalk previously and I rated him really highly as a player. He comes in and adds to our good attacking options and he’s a real goal threat so I really look forward to working with him.
“He’s a very good player,” he continued. “He’s someone who we’ve spoken about at the club over the last month or so and someone who we made it very clear we would like to bring to the club so we’re delighted now it’s done nice and early in the window as well and we can get on with it now. I think it gives us good options throughout the pitch now and we’re a real attacking force now.”
Junior reunites with his good friend James Akintunde who he grew up with in Thamesmead in southeast London from the age of 10 in a new-look Derry City attack. With just 19 goals scored during the opening 18 games of the league campaign, it’s been a disappointing return and an area where Higgins was determined to bolster.
And Junior can’t wait to get back playing at the Brandywell and attempt to reproduce his 2019 form.
“It’s a place where I really enjoyed playing my football and the fans are really terrific so I’m happy to be here,” said the Englishman. “I always like to help the team by scoring goals and getting three points so hopefully I can do more of that this time around.”
When he left Brandywell Junior returned to Colchester before signing for Hapoel Hadera in Israel at the end of 2020 before the onset of Covid put paid to his move. He was linked with a return to Brandywell last year before signing for Liam Buckley’s Sligo Rovers where he helped the Bit O’Red qualify for Europe.
Since making the switch to Dundalk, he’s played a bit part role during the Lilywhites’ tumultuous start to the season and he’s hoping he can settle on Foyleside again and get back playing with a smile on his face.
“I went to Israel and enjoyed my short time there but Covid ruined it,” he explained. “I came back to the League of Ireland and I’ve enjoyed each club I’ve been at to be fair. But I’m just happy to be back at Derry again and hopefully be back enjoying my football again.
“I can’t wait until the first game and hopefully help the team get three points.”
Higgins is hoping Junior will be involved for the visit of Waterford to Brandywell tonight.
“We’re working on it, so fingers crossed. If he’s available he’ll be in the squad.”
Meanwhile Higgins has acknowledged the contributions of both Will Patching and Danny Lupano as both players’ loan spells at the club came to an end this week.
Centre half, Lupano has been released by his parent club Hull City while Patching returns to Dundalk after starring during his six month loan spell at Derry.
“Both loan deals ended on June 30th and I want to put on record my gratitude to the two players,” said Higgins.
“Will made an incredible contribution during his time here and he is held in the highest regard at this club. I’d like to thank him for all his efforts and wish him every success in the second half of the season.
“Danny is another player who gives you everything and as I mentioned earlier, he too was extremely popular with players and staff at Derry City. He’s young with a bright future and I wish him every success going forward.”
So with two new faces through the Brandywell gates this week and two leaving the club, will there be any more business done during the July window?
”We’ll see. Never say never. We might do maybe one more but we’ll see how it goes.”