'I felt this was the right place for me to develop' - Olayinka already a hit with fans
It did not take James Olayinka long, just seven minutes to be precise, to get his new fan base leaping off their seats.
Thrown straight in for his first start a day after signing on loan from Arsenal, Olayinka had Cobblers fans purring throughout his terrific debut display during Tuesday’s 3-0 win over Scunthorpe United.
Technical quality on the ball is a given for any player on the books at Arsenal but there was far more to Olayinka’s game that caught the eye, not least his boundless energy, his willingness to get stuck in and his graft off the ball.
But it was his vision and quality in possession that first had supporters jumping for joy when, just seven minutes in, he fizzed a pass out to Nicky Adams, Adams delivered one of his trademark crosses and Vadaine Oliver glanced beyond visiting goalkeeper Ian Lawlor.
“That’s what the manager has been telling us to do when we get into those forward positions,” said Olayinka.
“He wants us to get the ball out wide and get it into the box so the fact I passed it out to Nicky and he crossed it for Vadaine just helps the team.
“It was great to celebrate with my team-mates. They’ve been really welcoming in the last couple of days and open towards me being in midfield and getting us playing.
“I was happy to make my league debut and it couldn’t have gone much better, but most importantly we got the win and now we want to continue this run.
“Hopefully we can keep it going because we have a lot of games coming up.”
It was a surprise – even to the man himself – that Olayinka started so soon after signing, especially as he’s had precious few experiences of men’s football.
But after seeing his busy and vibrant playing style for just a few minutes on Tuesday, Keith Curle’s decision to throw him in suddenly looked an obvious one.
The 19-year-old was so impressive that he won the man of the match award, ahead of two-goal striker Vadaine Oliver, as the Cobblers eased to victory once former player Kevin van Veen saw red for a first-half clash with Charlie Goode.
Oliver added to his early header with a scrappy second and then Sam Hoskins blasted home from the penalty spot after a foul on Callum Morton, another young loan signing who showed good promise off the bench on his debut.
“I was a bit surprised to start but I know what I can do for the team,” added Olayinka.
“I’m just happy the manager put faith in me after such a short amount of time and now I want to keep repaying him with good performances.
“I spoke to the boss before I signed and he told me he’s been looking at me throughout the season, not just when I played here (for Arsenal U21s in the EFL Trophy).
“He saw how we’ve been playing and the position we were in and he thought the team could use my help.
“After speaking with him, I felt this was the right place for me to come and develop as a footballer.
“I’m going keep working hard for the team and hopefully we continue to do well.”
Olayinka, suffered a late knock, was an instant hit with supporters.
He continued: “The reception I got from the fans when I went to warm-up and then again during the game and also when I was named man of the match was great.
“I just want to make them as happy as possible through my performances and hopefully they keep supporting us for the rest of the season and we can reward them with promotion.
“We’re on a good run at the moment and we’ll pride ourselves on our home form between now and the end of the season.
“Obviously we want to pick up as many points as possible away from home as well but we’ll take it one game at a time and hopefully that’ll help us get into the promotion places.”
The teenager’s loan deal, announced alongside West Brom’s Morton on Monday afternoon, is an arrangement that suits all parties.
He gets a taste of men’s football, Cobblers get a talented player and in turn Arsenal see one of their young prodigies develop their game.
“I’ve not had any conversations with Arsenal yet,” he added. “But I’m sure I’ll speak to a few people over the next few days.
“But at the moment I’m only focused on Northampton and we can see what happens at the end of the season.”