They have not yet been paired in the Hibs attack together, but Junior Agogo admits he and Akpo Sodje have become the odd couple of the Easter Road squad.
Having shared a flat together since Agogo’s move to the Capital in the summer, the two have bonded over their African roots, with Sodje, right, of Nigerian heritage helping Ghana internationalist Agogo settle into life in Edinburgh.
If a shared home life between team-mates – including taking turns at cooking meals – may seem an unhealthy recipe for a career and personal time becoming one, Agogo appears relaxed towards his close relationship with his team-mate.
“Yes, me and the Sodje – it’s okay. There are a lot of African vibes in the house – it’s all good,” said Agogo. “We’ve got a lot in common, me and Akpo. He helped me settle in a lot when I came here, so I thank him for that, as did all the boys.
“We go to the movies . . . this is like a married couple, isn’t it?,” he smiles. “We do loads of stuff. A lot of the time, we just watch football, chill at home, go online downloading music, speak to family and sometimes talk about Africa, about Nigeria, about Ghana. It’s good – I’m enjoying it.”
It’s little wonder that a player who has spent the past decade of his career in Chicago, Barnet, Egypt and Cyprus, among other leftfield locations, has adjusted seamlessly to life in Leith. The 32-year-old has spent nine of his 14 years as a footballer in England, where Sodje spent his entire ten-year career before joining Hibs, and the pair had crossed paths previously as opponents. Sodje’s three footballing brothers also alerted Agogo to the distinctive surname during his time south of the border.
“I played against him a few times down south and I know his brothers quite well . . . well, there’s loads of them anyway, so somebody must know one of them,” laughed Agogo.
“He was the person I knew the most when I came here. He gave me a feel of the club, of the people. Obviously, the gaffer [Colin Calderwood] did as well – massively – and the boys have been fantastic. I’m the oldest boy on the team and we’ve got a lot of young boys on the team, and they’ve helped me settle very quickly.”
He may be the senior member of the squad but, after taking time to find his feet on the field, Agogo is beginning to show the eye for goal – his first strike came last weekend against Dundee United – and the type of aptitude for linking with Garry O’Connor and Leigh Griffiths that prompted Calderwood to snap up the striker. With his form in the ascendancy, there’s increasingly little scope for flatmate Sodje to indulge in the baiting that comes with a poor performance.
“You know what, you’ve got to be able to take it – and dish it out as well,” grins Agogo. “We all want the same thing, and that’s for Hibs to win. As long as we’re giving 110 per cent in training, it’s down to the gaffer really. You know whoever he picks and whoever’s on the bench, we’re going to give our best. As long as we’re all on the same wavelength, that’s the main thing.”
Agogo’s improved displays have mirrored an upturn in fortunes for Hibs, who prior to today’s visit to Rangers had strung together a five-game run without defeat that included their first home win in seven months against St Johnstone on Wednesday. Speaking before the squad prepared to travel to Glasgow, Agogo revealed an upbeat mood has swept through the Hibs camp.
“You can tell by the boys today, everyone’s got a spring to their step and it puts us in good stead for the game against Rangers,” he said. “We knew eventually the win would come, but after a few games drawing it starts to stick in your head a little bit so it’s best to get it out the way. The manager gives us a game plan to do, and sometimes we’ve shot ourselves in the foot by going ahead and letting goals in. We’re still working at it, and it seems to be coming together now.
“I think we’re always going to score goals. We’ve had meetings among ourselves and we know we’ve been conceding a lot of goals. We’re all working hard on it on a daily basis to rectify that little problem we have, but we’re getting better.”
Now free of the niggling injury problems he experienced in his early weeks at Easter Road and striking up a sound understanding with the irrepressible O’Connor in the Hibs forward line, Agogo is enjoying his new lease of life in the twilight of his career.
“Some of the places I’ve been, I never even dreamt I’d have been there,” he said. “It’s about having an open mind.
“The way I look at things, you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I’m just enjoying myself here, right now.
“What I’ve got control of it what’s happening right now, so I’m just going to enjoy myself.”