Nii Odartey Lamptey: Playing in England was wrong move for me

Author: Geroge Ernest Asare
FLASHBACK: Nii Odartey Lamptey in action for Aston Villa against Wigan Athletic in 1994
FLASHBACK: Nii Odartey Lamptey in action for Aston Villa against Wigan Athletic in 1994

Ghana football legend Nii Odartey Lamptey has revealed that he regrets playing in England during the early years of his career, saying the the game was not suited for him and as a result he did not excel during his stint in the English Premier League (EPL).

A football phenomenon back then, the Ghanaian spent two seasons in the Premiership between 1994 and 1996, first on loan at Aston Villa and later Coventry City amidst high expectations. But more than two decades later, Lamptey is ruing his unsuccessful spell in England compared with the explosive start to his professional career with Belgian giants RSC Anderlecht and Dutch side PSV Eindhoven, both as a teenager with immense promise.

Physical English game
In an interview, 45-year-old Lamptey, who hang up his boots after  a nomadic career that took him to more than 12 clubs across different continents, told the Daily Graphic that his move to England was  wrong because his physique and style was not cut for the physical game in England.

“It was really too much for me, to me it was a wrong decision to move to England at that time. I went there because Anderlecht did not want to approve of my stay in Holland, which would have helped me much, and I was also not willing to return to Belgium.

“It was not easy to fit into the EPL in those days. Their style of play was too robust for my liking and beside, I met very tall players, so I struggled to cope,” Lamptey admitted.

“Their style of play never suited me at all. The players were not only tall, but also they liked playing long balls and running for them.  I was short and skillful at that time so it affected my performance so much.”

 

At Villa, the Ghanaian played 10 league matches without a goal in the 1994-95 season during the reign of respected British coach, Ron Atkinson, who took him to Coventry the following season where the skillful midfielder managed just six league matches without a goal, in part due to the sacking of the coach midway into the season.

Effect of national assignments
Explaining why moving to England was a setback in his career, the onetime world’s best juvenile player said the period coincided with a heavy schedule with Ghana’s national teams which did not allow him to play enough matches to qualify for a renewal of his work permit by Coventry.

“I was also playing many matches for the various national teams in Ghana so at a tender age of 19 years in 1994, it was not easy for me... you can imagine the load on my shoulders at that time.

“My work permit was not renewed because a foreign player needed to play 75 per cent of matches for his club but because I was almost always playing for the national teams, I did not meet their criteria for a work permit renewal. Eventually, I left for Italy to continue my career in Valencia but I stayed for a short time and left for Argentina to play for Boca Juniors.”