S FAM­ILY MAKE FEEL AT HOME

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP -

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.”

Free-scor­ing

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.”

PIC­TURES: Richard Parkes/Ac­tion Images

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

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