S FAMILY MAKE FEEL AT HOME
Paris toooften. When you go for just two days, it is very tough to leave the family.You get used to seeing everyone and you always have a lot of fun. It is hard because you always want to spend more time with them.
“But I am happy in England. I miss Paris sometimes but I have a good life here and I don’t feel the need to go back all the time. I am at home here.”
Dicko’s journey from Paris to Wolverhampton began when he was signed up by local side Creteil-Lusitanos, the French er outfit where second tie Dicko’s brother Bouba currently plays in the U19s.
Aged just 13, he was nicknamed ‘Mama’ in reference to Mamadou Niang, the great former Marseille and Senegal striker.
“Nouha got that name because he had all the same traits as Niang,” said his coach Sebastien Lamand. “He was powerful, lively and explosive. And he worked very hard.”
Next came three years at top-flight Strasbourg, yet Dicko would play just three times before being jettisoned in a desperate clearing of the decks.
“They had big financial troubles,” recalls Dicko. “They got relegated and they had to get rid of players. At that time I had just come from the
academy so I was released. I didn’t know what to do but my old agent said he’d got me a trial at Wigan. I didn’t think twice. I said ‘OK, take me to the airport’.”
Signed by Roberto Martinez in 2011, Dicko would eventually spend three years at the DW. Yet nobody – not Martinez, nor his successors Owen Coyle and Uwe Rosler – deemed the young striker worthy of a game.
“When I first went to Wigan they were in the Premier League and it was really hard to get in the team,” says Dicko, who never made a League appearance for the Latics despite scoring nine goals in 37 games on loan at Blackpool.
“I accepted that, of course. But in the Championship, I felt like maybe I could have got my chance. But it was like the manager didn’t really look at me. I wasn’t an option. It was very frustrating.”
And when five goals in five games on loan at Rotherham didn’t convince anyone, Wolves made their move, stumping up £300,000 in January 2014.
It would prove an inspired decision by Kenny Jackett, with Dicko netting 13 times in 19 games to both fire Wolves to the League One title and finish as the club’s top scorer.
“I felt at home here straight away,” says Dicko. “Having Bakary Sako was good.We both grew up in Paris, we both had parents from Mali. When you are in a different country it always helps to have someone around who can speak the same language and can help you to settle. But even if Bakary wasn’t here, I would still have been the same because everyone here has been good to me.”
Now Dicko has a new pal in Benik Afobe, Wolves’ £2m January acquisition from Arsenal. Together for just eight games, the pair have already racked up ten goals between them, reigniting Wolves’ play-off push and turning the men from Molineux into a free-scoring machine.
“I really enjoy playing with Benik,” says Dicko, who has netted four of his ten goals for the campaign in the last month.
“He came here to score and that’s what he has managed to do. But there’s more to his game than that. He is a very intelligent player. From the first day he understood how I like to play and which runs I like to make. I think I understand him, too. Even though we have only started two or three games together, it feels like we have played a lot more.
“It has made it easier for me. Before he came I was playing up front on my own. I think my performances were good, but I wasn’t scoring as many goals.
“Now we are sharing the task there is maybe less pressure on me. We complement each other and I think he has brought a lot to the team.”
And while Dicko was disappointed not to be selected alongside Sako for Mali’s African Cup of Nations side, he is confident that – this time – his form will not be ignored for long.
“At the time I was sad but looking back it may be the best thing,” he adds. “Things were going well at Wolves and it is better to play games here than go to Africa and sit on the bench.
“I’m sure some people would have been happy to go for a holiday and not play any games but I would honestly have preferred to be here. I know there will be other opportunities and if I can help Wolves, then they will notice.”
LET’S DANCE: Nouha Dicko, right, celebrates with Bakary Sako, England U21 man Benik Afobe is sent tumbling, and Sako celebrates another goal ALL-SMILES: Benik Afobe and Nouha Dicko have struck up a good partnership