International star 'owes debt to Wigan Athletic'

Leon Balogun has credited Wigan Athletic with kickstarting his career during his short time at the DW Stadium.
Leon BalogunLeon Balogun
Leon Balogun

The 31-year-old defender only joined Latics on the final day of the January transfer window, on loan from Premier League outfit Brighton.

But his arrival pretty much coincided with the incredible upturn in fortunes that saw Latics top the form table and rise out of the Championship drop zone.

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Latics had recorded four clean sheets in a row before the campaign was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with Balogun and Cedric Kipre having formed a rock-solid partnership at the heart of the defence.

Balogun’s impact was even more impressive given he hadn’t played in a league match since Boxing Day 2018, after being frozen out at Brighton.

And the German-born Nigeria international says his career has been given a desperately-needed new lease of life thanks to his move north.

“The most important thing for me was that I had not been given a lot of playing time, and this messes with your confidence, with everything, with your faith and yourself,” Balogun said.

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“You know, you try to keep it up, I still know I’m a good player but, you know, every now and then you need some sort of feedback, you need competition to see ‘where am I at?’ And I was just not given the chance to do that (at Brighton).

“So, when I came to Wigan, by the way I was welcomed not just by the team, but also by the staff, the manager and everyone.

“It just gave me a good feeling of being an important part of something again. And, the best part of it is just being out there on the pitch playing, and I’m happy it went so well so far...that I could contribute in the way I did.”

Balogun’s form was so good he’d even secured a recall to the Nigeria international squad, for the African Cup of Nations qualifier with Sierra Leone that also fell foul of the coronavirus.

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“It was sad because I was looking forward to being back home in Nigeria again for some time,” Balogun told Tolu Olasoji. “Enjoy good vibe, different vibe, nice weather, happy people like the group that the team is.

“I can’t even say ‘we were’ because not much has changed, just some few additions to the team.

“It’s always fun and it’s just a different vibe and I was looking forward to it but I mean, it’s not that it’s never going to happen again, it’s just postponed.”

Balogun has 32 caps for Nigeria, whom he represented at the 2018 World Cup finals.