George Elokobi’s learning curve became a little steeper on Wednesday night when Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Mick McCarthy experimented by playing the left back at the heart of his defence during the friendly draw with Motherwell.
The former Colchester United defender (pictured) played alongside new signing Richard Stearman during the 1-1 draw and was delighted with how it went.
The 22-year-old admits he has plenty to learn, but believes he is in the best possible hands to develop into a top-class defender.
Elokobi, who joined Wolves from Colchester United in January, is big, strong and quick, but McCarthy is moulding him into an all-round defender and Wednesday’s experiment was his latest lesson.
McCarthy may be preparing Elokobi to provide cover after admitting defeat in his bid to sign Bobo Balde from Celtic. Balde is available on a free transfer, despite having a year to run on his contract at Parkhead, but McCarthy has admitted the player’s wage demands currently rule out any deal.
“It’s a bit different playing centre back and it will definitely take me a couple of games to get into my stride there,” Elokobi said. “I’m happy to play wherever the manager wants me to and I enjoy playing there. I started at Dulwich Hamlet as a centre half so it’s not completely strange to me. It’s just a case of getting a couple of games under my belt in that position.
“It’s nice to know that the manager and coaching staff think I can play in that position. I am a naturally left -footed player, I’m strong and I think I’m quick enough and can read the game as well.
“It is completely different to playing in the centre. At Colchester, I played centre-half in the reserves but doing it in a game like last night is very different.
“There are cleverer players on the pitch and you have to be really focused throughout the 90 minutes. “It’s another string to the bow to have two positions and not be classed as just a left back. All I can do now is focus and take on board what the gaffer tells me. Of course, he was a former centre-half himself and he’ll tell me what I did right and what I did wrong. At times I maybe tried to overplay and he told me that but you can only learn from that. In the centre, you’ve got to know when to play and when to get the ball clear.
“It’s not completely strange but it’s just a case of getting back into that mentality of being a centre-half. Sometimes you may be tempted to go forward and attack as I like to at left back but, of course, in the centre you can’t really do it.”
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake scored his second goal of the pre-season tour of Scotland during the draw and Elokobi said the game had been a useful workout.
“Most of us got 70 minutes of action and it was a good tempo which is exactly what we needed,” he said.
*Ben Watson’s future remains uncertain after Crystal Palace rejected fresh offers for the midfielder from several Championship clubs. Manager Neil Warnock confirmed he had received fresh bids, rumoured to be from Queens Park Rangers and Nottingham Forest and said: “They were better bids but not acceptable.”