Kyle Walker and Dele Alli both crossed paths with the well-known striker during their time in the lower leagues earlier in their careers and both have tales to tell of time spent with, and against, the player affectionately known as the ‘Beast’ due to his formidable size!
Akinfenwa was at Northampton Town when an 18-year-old Kyle joined the Cobblers on loan from Sheffield United in November, 2008, and ‘Walks’ enjoyed two months as his team-mate in League One.
Dele, however, had a brief but ‘interesting’ run-in with the powerfully-built forward when their teams met in a grudge League Cup first round match in August, 2014. The midfielder was at MK Dons when they were drawn against Akinfenwa’s AFC Wimbledon and Dele remembers it well.
“I came up against him in the cup and I wound him up a little too much,” recalls Dele with a mischievous smile. “We had a bit of a falling out on the pitch and he chased me down the tunnel at half-time!
“A while later I saw him at an event and we had a good chat and a laugh about it. He’s a great guy and a good player as well.”
After watching Dele score both goals in our superb 2-0 win over league leaders Chelsea earlier this month, the 34-year-old Wycombe striker confessed on Twitter: ‘Two years ago I could not get near Dele Alli on the pitch & now the best of the best are feeling my pain. There is quality in the lower leagues.’
“I saw the comments and it was a nice compliment from him,” added Dele, who believes that Wycombe will play to Akinfenwa’s strengths as they attempt to cause an upset at the Lane.
“He’s got some real qualities and is a player that we shouldn’t take for granted. He is a great hold-up player who brings others into the game which is important. He’s brilliant at what he does.”
Meanwhile Kyle is also aware of League Two Wycombe’s threats but feels we have the personnel and know-how to see us through to the fifth round.
“I think it will be a test for us but if we push up the pitch and play the game that we’ve been playing in recent weeks with the high press, then it will be difficult for them,” he said. “But if we drop off, let Akinfenwa get the ball into feet and let them have runners off him, that will play into their hands.”
‘Walks’ only played on the same side as the much-travelled Akinfenwa on three occasions while at Northampton as the striker was initially injured, but the England international fondly remembers his time at Sixfields.
“We always had a great laugh, we had a good bunch of characters in that dressing room and they were good times which I’ll never forget,” he said.
“Everyone knows what Ade is about, he’s a lovely guy and a big strong lad. We used to have a bit of banter with him, saying that if you pass the ball a metre either side of him he wouldn’t be able to get it, but if it came into his feet, it’s like running around a double decker bus trying to get the ball off him!
“I remember walking into the gym at Northampton and he was there doing bench presses and I’m thinking ‘what are you doing lifting weights?’ But whatever anyone says about him, the one thing he has done is score goals and you can’t argue with his stats.
“I’ve met him a few times since those Northampton days and we still have mutual friends that we keep in touch with,” added Kyle. “It will be great to catch up with him again at the Lane... but we have to make sure we focus on getting the result first.”