Curle impressed by Chukwuemeka’s willingness to learn after his first league goal

Caleb ChukwuemekaCaleb Chukwuemeka
Caleb Chukwuemeka
Teenager’s strike was the difference against Wigan on Saturday

Cobblers boss Keith Curle has challenged Caleb Chukwuemeka to keep improving after the teenage striker scored his first league goal at Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

The 18-year-old, who also scored against Southampton U23s in the EFL Trophy recently, came off the bench at the DW Stadium to net what was ultimately the winning goal, sweeping Sam Hoskins’ pass into the bottom corner.

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Chukwuemeka’s rise into the first-team has been a rapid one. From starting the season with the youth team, he’s already made nine appearances this term and now scored two goals. 

“Caleb came in and it was a great finish from the lad,” said Curle. “He showed good understanding and good composure. I don’t think he struck the ball as cleanly as he wanted to but that’s Caleb because he has a little bit of magic.

“He’s still got a lot of learning to do to be a team player and that’s not a criticism. It means being in the right position out of possession and understanding your role but fair play to the lad, he’s learning and he’s listening and he’s taking onboard information, which is what you want from the young players at the club.

“There are other young lads who aren’t getting regular game-time - Morgan Roberts is another player who is doing a lot of work on the training ground and he will get his opportunities.

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“Because we train at the ground, we don’t get enough time with the youth players but we were out on Friday doing a little bit of finishing with Caleb, Ricky (Korboa) and Morgan and that time spent is valuable, especially when those young players want to stay out with you and do the extra work.

“When they get the opportunity to get in the first-team and get on the pitch, they don’t forget what you’ve been working on and that’s putting the ball in the back of the net.”

Curle hopes Chukwuemeka’s first league goal will motivate him to improve the other side of his game. 

“The thing with Caleb is that he wants to learn,” added the Town boss. “Previously he was in a place where he was the best player in the youth team and you can sometimes pick up bad habits.

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“He wasn’t being pushed and he wasn’t being stretched but with the club going up a division, and now when he joins in with the first-team group, we want him to express himself with the ball and also understand his role out of possession.

“Every outfield player has a job when we’re out of possession and it comes more naturally to some players than others. Caleb is a forward-thinking player and it’s not as natural. Give him a ball to chase when he might get a goal out of it, the lad finds a yard. We need to find that yard when he’s going the other way and he’s got to track a runner.

“It’s all part and parcel of the game and when he understands that and it becomes second nature, he’ll be a very good player.”

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