Eddie Chikamhi, Harare Bureau
WARRIORS defender Alec Mudimu says he is not surprised that compatriot Marvelous Nakamba is getting rave reviews following a promising start to life in the tough English Premiership football with Aston Villa.
Mudimu, who plays for Cefn Druids in Wales, said it is not always easy to walk into the English Premiership and establish yourself the way Nakamba has done.
Nakamba put up another fine show as a holding midfielder at the weekend to help Villa claim a hard-fought 2-1 win over Brighton. Apparently, the midfielder has never looked back since the day he made his English Premiership debut against West Ham United last month.
“Of course, it’s difficult to jump straight into the English Premier League but he (Nakamba) has settled fantastically and is slowly becoming a real household name at Aston Villa, which is great for him I’m sure and, of course, Zimbabwe,” said Mudimu.
Nakamba made his debut for Villa in a cup game against Crew last month and immediately impressed.
The Aston Villa coach Dean Smith was cautious with him at the beginning but the 25-year-old Hwange-born player has been growing in confidence and is slowly turning out to be a wise buy for the Birmingham-based side after relegating £15m signing Brazilian international Douglas Luiz to the bench.
Smith is more than happy with Nakamba’s workaholic tendencies which have provided the team’s attackers the freedom to venture forward knowing they are well covered. Since his arrival, players like John McGinn, Conor Hourihane and Jack Grealish have been flourishing while leaving Nakamba to do most of the dirty work.
Nakamba played his fifth successive league game for Villa on Saturday against Brighton with Grealish and Matt Targett on target to see off a 10-man Brighton.
The Birmingham Mail ranked him among the top performers in the game with a 7/10 rating as Villa rallied to a late winner at home.
“He (Nakamba) struggled to contain Neal Maupay initially as the French forward kept peeling off Mings and Engels and into midfield to pick the ball up, bearing down on goal on a couple of occasions from distance. Anchored the midfield and broke up bits as he always does. Was needed as an insurance policy given Brighton’s breakaways in the second half as Villa pressed for a winner (rating 7),” reported the Birmingham Mail yesterday.
Aston Villa have now moved into 11th place in the English Premiership table with as many points after nine games.
But Nakamba has had a particularly good start in the English Premiership. Of the five games he has played, he has featured in two wins, two draws and one defeat, which came against Arsenal.
The club’s official Twitter posted Nakamba with a Zimbabwean flag soon after the win over Brighton and wrote a short caption which read: “Doing his country proud with every performance.”
Former Zimbabwe international and ex-Caps United centreback Frank “Dealer” Nyamukuta also praised the 25-year-old midfielder.
“The boy has not disappointed since the day he made his first team appearance. This has been seen with the Man of the Match accolades he got in some of those games.
“Not only that, he has also managed to keep his place in the starting line-up. He is not a polished article yet in the English Premier League but with sheer determination and hard work he has been putting in every game he has played so far, he will definitely get there without a shadow of a doubt,” said Nyamukuta, who is now based in London, England.
Mudimu, who was given the skipper’s armband when Zimbabwe begun the 2022 World Cup qualification in the preliminary round against Somalia recently, also added that he was not surprised by Nakamba’s progress which has so far silenced skeptics.
“Of course I am not surprised. It’s only normal for critics to say these things (that Nakamba will struggle in the tough world of English Premiership football) but I know Marve on a personal level and I think his workrate is the best I’ve ever seen.
“As a footballer, regardless where you play, having the right foundation of the correct teammates and manager can alter how you play massively and God willing Marve’s just got that break with a great bunch of players around and manager too,” said Mudimu.
Nakamba is expected to be one of the key players when Zimbabwe plunge into the 2021 Afcon qualifiers next month.
The Warriors are likely to take up the challenge in their group, which also includes Botswana, Zambia and Algeria, with a spring in their step following the exciting form of their key players abroad.
Defender Teenage Hadebe is playing regularly in Turkey while Marshal Munetsi, who is likely to provide a formidable company for Nakamba in midfield, also had a fine start in the French Ligue 1 for Reims.
“I have no doubt, we have a rising team in Zimbabwe and all of our players are making headlines and (Warriors’) ranking up. I’m sure throughout their careers they will play in the best leagues around the world. Our players are comfortably starting big games in their respective leagues and doing very well,” Mudimu said.
Mudimu also had a fruitful weekend with Cefn Druids when he scored from the penalty spot to end a seven-match winless run for his club. Druids won 3-1 over Caernarfon Town. Despite a difficult run this season, they are still hoping for a return to the Europa League.
“No doubt, Zimbabwean football is starting to dominate slowly and I feel it is going in the right direction of course. And yes, it’s been a rollercoaster of a lot of emotions for me this season but the team (Druids) has a lot of new faces and it’s taken longer than usual for everyone to settle.
“Nevertheless we’ve started to pick up vital points and again it’s a long way but Europa League can still be dreamt of. Personally, it’s not been where I want it to be. I need to continue listening to the boss and working extremely hard because I have no doubt I have so much more to give the club on the pitch,” said Mudimu.
Meanwhile, another Warriors player Tino Kadewere also had a good outing at the weekend after scoring his 11th goal of the season for Le Havre in France.
Kadewere was on target in the 2-2 draw against Lorient. The dreadlocked forward has had an impressive start in the French Ligue 2 where he has scored 11 goals in 11 starts.