Ex-West Ham United youngster Tunji Akinola discusses start to life at Partick Thistle and having own personal tour guide

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The centre-half collected the club’s McCrea Financial Services Player of the Month award for September

Arriving in a new city for the first time is never easy but Tunji Akinola has revealed how Partick Thistle manager Ian McCall became his personal tour guide in a bid to help him settle in Glasgow.

After spending 14 years in the famous West Ham United academy and gaining valuable first-team experience on loan at Leyton Orient last season, the defender was left pondering his next move following his release in the summer.

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However, a quick phone call between McCall and his Hammers counterpart David Moyes convinced the Jags boss that Akinola was worthy of a trail period and after impressing the Londoner signed a one-year-deal.

Leaving the family home for the first time in his career will have been a daunting prospect for the centre-half, but his bedding in process was made easier after his new boss showed him around town.

He said: “The manager showed me around the West End when I arrived, so I know some good restaurants now.

“He showed me where’s good to go and where to avoid. The gaffer has been great with me.

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“This is the first time I have moved away from home. Even last season when I was on loan I was still in London, so either way it was going to be a massive change for me, leaving my family and stuff.

“I’ve settled in well. A lot of the boys are a similar age to me, which makes it easier.

“On the pitch, I know how the gaffer wants to play. The training is good and intense which is what I am used too.

“When things are going well on the pitch and you are focused on your football everything else just seems to take care of itself.

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“There are a lot of experienced players here and it’s great to learn from these guys too. Even in training, I’m up against Brian Graham and he’s such an experienced player too.

“When I am not on his team in training I know I am in for a battle, but it’s all helping me.”

The move to Firhill has certainly paid off thus far with Akinola producing a number of impressive displays.

Akinola accepts he is his own worst critic but believes a spell in England’s fourth tier has proven instrumental in his development.

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“It’s a proud moment for me,” he said after picking up the club’s McCrea Financial Services Player of the Month award for September, voted for by supporters.

“That was my first full month at the club, so to get an award like this is voted for by the fans is special.

“It shows they appreciate what I’m doing but I just want to keep playing and keep doing well for the club.

“The Championship is competitive. With the league we’re in, you never get an easy game. You need to fight for three points.

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“I was in League Two last season in England and it’s very similar – you need to earn the right to compete. It’s a battle and it’s not too dissimilar to here.

“That was my first experience of playing men’s football week in, week out and it is a tough league. The quality might not be the best all the time but as a defender especially, you’re getting tested physically.

“You need to make tackles, blocks and win your headers and it’s rough at times, but that has made me stronger as a player, mentally and physically.

“It is just so different to what I had been playing in the academy. Everything there was about nice, pretty football and in League Two it was a battle every week.

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“You win the battle and then you have more chance of winning the game. I played about 30 games in the league and I learned a lot, so hopefully I can do the same again.

“Things have been going really well so far. The fans seem happy, but I’m never really satisfied because I always want to do better.

“We should have won more games last month than we did and I always want to get clean sheets.

“I am quite picky with my own performances, but it’s nice to know the fans think I am doing well. I want to keep progressing and get us where we need to be, which is top of the table, really.”

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Thistle face recently relegated Hamilton Accies in tonight’s live televised Championship clash from the Fountain of Youth Stadium and Akinola won’t be short of motivation to impress either.

He admitted: “When I was on trial, we played a friendly against them so I’ve been to their stadium before and it’s a nice pitch. Hamilton play good football so it will be a good game.

“I’m told it is on TV which is great because all my mates back home will be watching it, so I need to do well!”

*Partick Thistle’s Player of the Month Awards for season 21/22 are proudly sponsored by McCrea Financial Services – visit www.mccreafs.co.uk to find out more.

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