From rags to riches: A Victor Moses story

He may have scored to help Chelsea to a 3-0 win on Monday, but how much do you really know about the orphan from Nigeria who became an EPL superstar.

By SportBrief Reporter

Sometimes in the modern game, professional footballers need reminding that there is more to life than the game they are paid so handsomely to play. Not Victor Moses, however.

The former Crystal Palace prodigy has experienced more tragedy in his 27 years than most English footballers could begin to imagine.

Growing up in Nigeria, in the volatile city of Kaduna, he was just another 11-year-old playing football on the streets when he heard the news that his parents, both Christian preachers, had been brutally murdered by Muslim rioters. Fearing he would be targeted next, his remaining relatives took him into hiding.

“It was a week after they were killed I came to England, they got me out as quickly as they could for my safety”, says Moses.

Such was the danger, he didn’t have time to bring any pictures of his parents — let alone properly mourn their loss.

An asylum seeker, taken in by foster parents in Croydon, having never previously been outside Nigeria, Moses understandably struggled to adapt. But football was to provide an unlikely helping hand, and after having finally plucked up the courage to join a junior team, his outstanding potential was soon spotted by enthusiastic Palace scouts.

They helped him gain admission to the highly regarded Whitgift private school, where he received first-rate coaching from former Palace boss Steve Kember and ex-Arsenal and Chelsea player Colin Pates.

Of equal importance, however, he was also helped to get a solid education — despite the increasing national attention his footballing talent was getting.

“When I went away with England, the school wanted me to still study, so they did a deal with England that I had a tutor,” Moses recalled when speaking to FourFourTwo magazine.

His coaches were the ones who needed a calculator to record his goal tallies, however (he scored 50 in one year in Palace’s U14 side, and then won the Golden Boot with England at the 2007 U17 European Championships), and by the time he was 16 the Eagles’ manager, Neil Warnock, had no hesitation in putting him into the first-team squad.

After an initial period of adjustment, where the rough and tumble of the Championship sometimes proved too much for him, Moses soon adapted to the challenge — and quickly drew high praise from those around him.

“I don’t want him to get a big head but it is frightening some of the things he can do,” former Palace team-mate Paul Ifil said after Moses’ shot from an acute angle saw Palace beat Watford in April 2008.

“Vic can be as good as he wants. He reminds me of [George] Weah in the way he moves the ball around.”

With the ability to play equally efficiently as a winger, second striker or out-and-out forward, the pick of top clubs — including Arsenal, Real Madrid and Barcelona — were reported to be chasing after the youngster’s signature.

Wigan finally won the race that time, with the then coach Roberto Martinez taking the plunge and completing a sealed £2.5 million move to the then Premier League side in January 2010.

Moses picked up two injuries at the start of the 2010–11 season and found it difficult to make it back into the first-team due to increased competition for places. However, following the departure of winger Charles N’Zogbia, Moses became a regular starter for Wigan in the 2011–12 season.

And it wasn’t long before Premier League giants Chelsea came calling for the wide-man, with the Blues confirming the signing of the forward for a fee believed to be £10 million in August 2012.

Initially, Moses struggled to make the grade at Chelsea, being sent out on loan to Liverpool, Stoke City and West Ham but it was during the pre-season of the 2015-16 season that the player caught the eye of coach Antonio Conte who retained him and gave him a wingback role at the club.

“I’ve never played that (wing-back) position before,” said Moses. “When the manager came in, he talked me through it and then put me there.”

“It was good to have the manager’s support, and he backed me and gave me the confidence to go out there and express myself. So I just wanted to go out there to play for him, the fans and the football club. I didn’t let him down.”

Moses was thrust into Chelsea’s starting line-up for the first time in three years, at Hull in the league in October 2016. He adapted to the unfamiliar role so well that not only was he named man-of-the-match, but his performance kick-started a run of consistent performances for the Blues as they eventually won the Premier League title.

Rory Jennings, of CFC Fan TV, was under no illusions about the significance of Moses’ development at wing-back.

“Moses played a huge role in Chelsea’s success last season,” said the pundit. “His brilliance allowed us to amend our formation and play a system that nobody else in the Premier League could cope with.”

The Super Eagles winger also credited fellow Chelsea teammate Caesar Azpilicueta for helping him adapt to the new wingback position.

“I’d say Azpilicueta [has influenced me most],” Moses told Goal. “He played a huge part in my defensive development last season.”

Moses calls winning the title one of the happiest days in his life. He has also celebrated World Cup qualification this year with Nigeria, the country he opted to represent despite having played extensively for England at youth level.

With a growing trophy haul, regular football and ever-increasing respect, Moses have overcome both personal heartbreaks and repeated professional setbacks to finally reach the top.

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