Millwall striker on verge of milestone – as he remembers first pro goal and discusses run-in

BENIK Afobe is out to join the One Hundred Club.

Afobe has scored 99 goals in professional football and could make it a century this weekend at Luton Town.

Millwall striker Afobe has scored 98 goals in club football and he has one in international football, for DR Congo in a 2–0 friendly win over Botswana in 2017.

His first goals in professional football were for Huddersfield Town – where he was on loan from Arsenal – on November 9, 2010.

It was a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy game at Rotherham United. Afobe, then 17 years of age, scored in the 28th and 72nd minutes in a 5-2 win for his side at the Don Valley Stadium.

Afobe is on nine goals in 33 games for Millwall this season.

“For me, the next one is important because the next one is going to be my 100th goal,” Afobe said. “I’m sitting on 99 career goals, 98 eight club. It would be nice to get to that 100-mark.

“When I started playing football, if you told me I would get to 100 professional goals, it seemed so far away.

“A lot of things have happened, good and bad, and to finally achieve it would be a huge thing for my family and myself.

“To be honest, if I didn’t score again this season and we got promoted, I’d take that.”

Benik Afobe is one goal away from 100

Afobe remembers his first goal in professional football. It put the Terriers 3-1 up in that JPT game after a Jordan Rhodes double for Lee Clark’s side.

His father, Ange, was in the stand.

“I was a 17-year-old boy. I pointed to my dad in the crowd. I saw him, he was cold, he was wearing his jacket, it was a Tuesday night,” Afobe said.

“It was amazing. Rotherham don’t have that stadium anymore so that’s how long I’ve been in football!

“It was nice to finally achieve something like that because then you realise, yes I’m here now, I’m a professional footballer.

“Long may it continue scoring goals.

“Twelve years later I’m here now. It’s been one heck of a journey, for sure.”

Going for the play-offs is not a new experience for Afobe.

“That season with Huddersfield in League One, we went 20-odd games unbeaten, we finished off strongly, and then we lost in the final against Peterborough,” Afobe recalled.

“That year the Champions League final was at Wembley so we had our final at Old Trafford.

“We’ve got experienced players and players who are taking it game by game, keeping the younger lads on their toes. The best thing about Millwall’s changing room is that we’re a hard-working group.

“Everyone works for each other, there are no egos and everyone just wants to do their best for themselves and the team, which is something that is quite rare nowadays.

“Wherever we finish I would still say it’s a successful season, because I’ve come back here and I’ve got friends for life here.”

The forward is hugely popular with team-mates and fans

The Lions are four points off sixth with eight games left. Expectations have changed with the play-offs now in sight.

But Afobe is not bothered about pressure.

“I feel the pressure every game because I’m my biggest critic,” Afobe said. “So even if we’re playing against a Conference team in pre-season or it’s the cup final, I always feel pressure. I’m used to it and I think I play better under pressure.

“I play better when the chips are down, sort of thing, or when something’s going against me or the team, that’s when I feel like I need to stand up and be counted and leave my mark on the game.

“Every game I put pressure on myself, so I don’t think one game is bigger than the other. I focus and prepare for each game the same way.

“I said it to my family, even when I spoke to the manager, we get on very well, I said to the manager after all the injuries we’ve had this season if we were three or four points off the play-offs with eight games to go we would have taken that.”

Benik Afobe after equalising against Bournemouth

Afobe couldn’t help his team-mates last time out in the 2-0 defeat against his parent club, Stoke City.

He scored both goals in the 2-0 win against Huddersfield in the previous game.

Afobe said: “Before the season started I knew that we were going to play Stoke twice so I wouldn’t be able to play twice. For me, it wasn’t too difficult because I knew what it was.

“I played well against Huddersfield. The team played well, it was probably one of our most complete performances collectively.

“As a forward when you score you want the next game to be as soon as possible. It doesn’t make a difference, I knew that was going to be the case.

“It’s good that the eight games we’ve got we’re still playing for something. We’re chasing something. If you’re not playing for promotion or to avoid relegation you’re sort of just playing to see the season out.

“We’ve got something to play for, which is always nice, and we want that to go on the whole way.”

Image: Millwall FC

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John Kelly