Danger man Yakubu eager to make up for lost opportunity

Steve Clarke.
Steve Clarke.
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Ayegbeni Yakubu insists he never feared he had missed out on FA Cup glory when he quit English football for China in 2012.

The Nigeria striker is back in the Championship after a two-and-a-half year global odyssey, and ready to fire the Royals past Bradford this weekend.

Reading can secure their first FA Cup semi-final since 1927 with victory in today’s early kick-off at Valley Parade – and Yakubu is desperate to secure a long-overdue first trip to Wembley.

The 32-year-old former Everton favourite missed the Toffees’ 2-1 cup final defeat to Chelsea in 2009 through injury, and is still itching to right that personal wrong.

“I never closed the door to say I’m not coming back to England: in football you never say never,” said Yakubu. “I never thought my Wembley dream was over. I had the chance to come back here so I took it.

“England is one of the best places to play football, so I’m happy to be here, enjoying the moment and hopefully I can do more to help the team.

“I was going crazy when I couldn’t play in that game for Everton against Chelsea. But that was years ago, now we’ve got another 90 minutes to play, and hopefully we can be there again. If we could get through to Wembley it would be very special, every player wants to play at Wembley at some stage in their career.”

Yakubu joined Reading in the January transfer window, calling time on a stint at Qatari club Al-Rayyan which followed 18 months at Guangzhou in China.

Reading boss Steve Clarke jumped at the chance to recruit the Premier League’s second-highest African goal scorer of all time – with 95 strikes to Didier Drogba’s 103.

Yakubu has battled for fitness since pitching up at the Madejski Stadium, but struck the winner in Reading’s 2-1 fifth-round victory over Derby, and is now eager for more.

Giant-killers Bradford may have toppled Chelsea and Sunderland, but Yakubu believes Reading can grind out victory this weekend.

“Bradford are a good team, they fight for each other, stick together and will make it difficult for anyone against them,” said the former Portsmouth and Middlesbrough forward. “So we’ve got to give it our best, it will be difficult but as a team we’ve got to give everything.

“One game and we could be at Wembley. The Championship is so difficult, different from the Premier League. Every game you have to fight.

“I’ve been here more than a month now, I’m fit now, it’s not easy coming back to England after two-and-a-half years, but I’m fitter now and ready to go.

“Of course every player wants to start but you have to give credit to the players who have been starting. I’m 100 per cent fit now, so whenever the manager thinks I’m ready, I’m ready.

“I’ve always believed, wherever I have played, I know I can score goals, no matter what league I’m playing in.

“It’s just for me to take my chance, if I can get 90 minutes. I always believe and have confidence, and I know I can do it.

“So whenever the manager feels it is right for me, I know I will take my chance.”