Daryl Dike on stepping outside his Orlando comfort zone to help fire Barnsley FC towards the Premier League

THE name on the back of Daryl Dike’s No 10 shirt at Barnsley should arrive with the prefix of Team. Team Dike.

The American striker is from good sporting stock as his magnificent physique suggests.

The youngest son of Nigerian immigrants who loved football above US sports, Dike grew up in a ‘soccer family’ in Edmond, a town in the state of Oklahoma.

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Dike’s older sibling Bright was capped by the Super Eagles, and his sister Courtney represented Nigeria at the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

Star-spangled signing: Barnsley's Daryl Dike.Star-spangled signing: Barnsley's Daryl Dike.
Star-spangled signing: Barnsley's Daryl Dike.

His cousin is former Nigeria forward Emmanuel Emenike, who played for the likes of Spartak Moscow and Fenerbahce and spent a brief loan at West Ham in 2016.

Regular input from Bright, 34, whose eclectic career as a forward saw him play in both Russia and Malaysia, is always close at hand.

Unfailingly polite with a 100-watt smile never far away and someone whom your mother would instantly label as a ‘really nice lad’, Dike admits that his big brother can get a touch ‘annoying.’

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The comments are spoken with love and affection and say everything about the pride and closeness of a family who are watching the back of their boy, who joined Barnsley for the rest of the season from MLS outfit Orlando City on deadline day.

On target: Barnsley's Daryl Dike  scores their second goal at Adams Park, Wycombe.On target: Barnsley's Daryl Dike  scores their second goal at Adams Park, Wycombe.
On target: Barnsley's Daryl Dike scores their second goal at Adams Park, Wycombe.

Dike, who has swiftly become a hugely popular team player and contributor to one of the English Football League’s most astonishing stories of the 2020-21 season, told The Yorkshire Post: “I am not going to lie, sometimes I tell him (Bright) that he needs to relax as it is a little bit annoying!

“But it is good because I am in his best interests and it is great to have someone like that and it puts me at an advantage because I don’t think every single player has that growing up.

“Let alone him, I have my entire family. My sister played in the World Cup and my other two sisters played as well. Not professionally, but they still played with parents and my footballing family and my cousin also played in the World Cup with Nigeria and also club football in Turkey.

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“It is a big footballing family I have around me and they give me advice every single day and it is great. I can feel myself taking those little pieces that they give to me and it gives me an edge against other people.

Barnsley's Daryl Dike (left) celebrates scoring against Wycombe (Picture: PA)Barnsley's Daryl Dike (left) celebrates scoring against Wycombe (Picture: PA)
Barnsley's Daryl Dike (left) celebrates scoring against Wycombe (Picture: PA)

“I know it is boring to say, but my brother (Bright) is my idol and the guy I have looked up to in my entire life as a young kid.

“I even started playing because of him and he has been through it all – the whole college (system), the MLS and playing overseas and playing with the national team. It is great to have someone like that in the background telling you tips each day.

“My family are my support group. Regardless of football or anything, but in daily life as well as they are around me and supporting me.

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“They have been the ones guiding me and giving me the extra step to push my life and career and step outside of my comfort zone.

Barnsley's Daryl Dike (10) celebrates scoring their side's first goal at QPR (Picture: PA)Barnsley's Daryl Dike (10) celebrates scoring their side's first goal at QPR (Picture: PA)
Barnsley's Daryl Dike (10) celebrates scoring their side's first goal at QPR (Picture: PA)

“They are my platforms to hold me up.”

They may look out for Dike, but in truth, they do not really need to.

Blessed with the sort of build which instantly points to the fact that he can take care of himself on the pitch, he is low-maintenance off it and a smart cookie as well.

Despite being at Barnsley for just a month and a half, Dike has quickly become an integral part of the all-conquering Reds line-up under the incomparable Valerien Ismael, with testament to his on-pitch importance arriving on Wednesday when he struck twice in the club’s win at Wycombe – their ninth in 10 matches. They are unbeaten in 12, nestled in a play-off spot and the talk of the Championship.

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Off it, the 20-year-old is already a hugely popular figure – and the sort of individual who is good to have around and determined to take everything he can out of his time at Barnsley.

Like Dike, fellow new year signing Carlton Morris has also bestowed similar gifts to the table and also proved a handful to Championship defences.

Daryl Dike. (Picture: Tony Johnson)Daryl Dike. (Picture: Tony Johnson)
Daryl Dike. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

He is similarly engaging company in his media duties and is also embracing every part of his experience at Oakwell.

Both have added to what is becoming a special story.

It should be no surprise that he and Dike get along like a house on fire, even if they are at odds when it comes to one sport.

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On Morris, whose haul of five goals matches his own total so far, Dike commented, with a smile: “Off the pitch, he is a good guy. We like to talk about basketball in America as well.

“We are good guys and enjoying hanging around and messing around with each other and it is good to have a guy who came in at a similar time as me.

“He is also a phenomenal player to play alongside and that is obviously a plus. He is a great guy, although he supports the (Dallas) Mavericks and I support Oklahoma City Thunder!”

Thunderous is the perfect adjective to describe Dike’s howitzer of a strike which recently settled Barnsley’s game with Birmingham at Oakwell. It was a goal worthy of a full house and not a deserted stadium.

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Dike’s power, selfless running and team play has also come to the fore alongside his goals return and that stellar moment against Birmingham.

It all points to a player with a serious future and it is no surprise whatsoever that his parent club recently rejected a reported $10m offer from a top-six side in the Premier League.

Dike, who switches to international duties after today’s derby with Sheffield Wednesday – the US play Jamaica and Northern Ireland later this month – looks tailor-made for English football.

It has been intense, but rewarding all the same.

He added: “That was one of the main reasons I came – to experience something difficult and step outside of my comfort zone.

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“Going into training, I knew that tackles would be flying in and that it would be aggressive, high-pressing football and physical and intense.

“That is one of the first things I have noticed and I think that is great because that is what you get on the field. You train like you want to play.

“I feel I am growing and feel the players getting better and better around me. As a team, we are getting better every day.

“You want to step into a game knowing that we are not going to change our tactics because of you guys. Teams are thinking: ‘how are we going to beat Barnsley?’ While we are thinking: ‘We are going to win. How are we going to win and do this?”

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“We step into games knowing what we can control and what we are going to do, not what they (other teams) are going to do.”

The business of Barnsley, as Ismael regularly states, is with themselves and not others.

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