DEFENDER Ismail Yakubu has vowed to fight for his place in the Newport County AFC side as he begins his fourth season with the club today.
The Exiles begin their second League Two campaign at home to Wycombe Wanderers this afternoon (kick-off 3pm).
And experienced centre-back Yakubu faces a real battle to make the starting XI with new signings Kevin Feely and Darren Jones both impressing in pre-season.
But the 29-year-old welcomes the extra competition and he’s just pleased to be fit after recovering from an ankle injury.
“I surprised the physio and the management because they didn’t expect me to be back so soon but I’m feeling good,” said Yakubu.
“I’ve been performing well, I’m enjoying my football and I’m happy to be fit and available to play the first game.
“But I know I’ve got a lot of competition in central defence now and that’s the good thing about football; you can never rest on your laurels.
“No matter how good you are or what you’ve achieved you’ve always got new people coming through and new people to test yourself against.
“The standard of the centre-halves at the club has risen again and it’s going to be really tough to get into the side now,” he added.
“Kevin is a great young talent and Darren is a really experienced centre-half.
“He knows exactly what he’s doing and I’ll be fortunate to play alongside either of them, or Byron Anthony or Andrew Hughes.
“I just hope that I’ll be in the starting XI.”
Yakubu is not getting carried away with an unbeaten pre-season and he’s expecting Wycombe to be much tougher opponents today than they were last season.
“We’ve had good results but they don’t count and we’ve got to make sure we produce the goods when it really matters today,” he said.
“I’ll be expecting a big improvement from Wycombe because they’re a big club and they underperformed last season.
“They’ll want to put a marker down for the season and we’ve got to stop them doing that.”
Yakubu is one of the longest-serving players at the club having been signed by Anthony Hudson from AFC Wimbledon in 2011.
The defender didn’t see eye to eye with Hudson and was sent on loan to Cambridge United but he’s happy that his former boss has landed the New Zealand national job.
“Congratulations to him,” said Yakubu. “Management is never easy. He had a bit of a tough time here at Newport but that’s another great thing about football; you always get a second chance.
“He is a good manager. Things happen and some people don’t get on but I’m not the type of person to hold a grudge.
“I’ve moved on and he’s moved on and it sounds like we’ve both prospered so I’m happy for both of us.”