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CCF Rebooted: No.2 - Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro
Tuesday, 5th Jan 2021 11:57 by AtThePeake

Our second player from this feature arrived at Spotland alongside Joe Widdowson from Blundell Park in the summer of 2010/2011

Position: Winger/Forward

Played : 2010-2012

Appearances : 73

Goals : 11

Wo-oh-oah he's magic, you know... Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro!

Jean-Louis' signature alongside Joe Widdowson that summer appeared to create as many rumours after it was completed as it had before it was confirmed but nobody really knew what to expect from the Frenchman. Based on mixed reviews from Grimsby supporters and the fact that the early part of his career had been played out at Toulouse and Brest in his native France followed by a brief stint in Belgium with FC Brussels, we didn't have much else to go on.

Although his goalscoring record wasn't particularly encouraging at Blundell Park, supporters appeared to have taken to the attacker for his energy and skill and indeed sections of the Dale support would find Akpa Akpro similarly endearing during his two years at Spotland.

Having scored a stunning volley in a pre-season friendly at Fleetwood, it wouldn't take long for the new man to show what he was capable in the league either. Having dropped to the bench following ineffectual performances in his first couple of starts, Akpa Akpro was introduced from the bench against Huddersfield in September of that season and scored a stunning solo effort to help wrap up a 3-0 victory against the Terriers - a strike that was later compared by some to Michael Owen's versus Argentina at the '98 World Cup! (Clip below).

In truth, all we saw from Jean-Louis was flashes of capability in what was a progressive campaign for Dale. He was never really trusted as the central striker in a three pronged-attack and was never likely to oust Chris O'Grady or Nicky Adams from the wider positions once they had settled, with Joe Thompson also being preferred as a starter at times.

He scored three times further that season, two coming in the home and away fixtures against Peterborough United, but started just eight times, his versatility probably the main reason why he was mainly used as an option from the bench, coming on as a substitute on no fewer than 24 times that season.

After Keith Hill's departure that summer, JLAA was to feature a lot more regularly in Dale's relegation campaign under both Steve Eyre and John Coleman as both managers rotated often but failed to find a winning formula for Dale.

The Frenchman always looked like one of our main goal threats during a disappointing campaign, but struggled to settle in an ever-changing side. Although those flashes of brilliance would get supporters on their feet and he would end the season with 7 goals (including one in Coleman's first game in charge, a 3-0 victory over local rivals Bury) quite often he would be a source of frustration due to missed chances or the game simply passing him by.

He was offered a contract for the forthcoming League Two season by the club, but rejected it in favour of a move to Tranmere Rovers, where he played for two years, also spending a short, goalless spell on loan at Bury.

Akpa Akpro later played 83 times for Shrewsbury (famously netting a hat-trick against the Shakers during his spell with the Shrews), Barnet, Yeovil and Oldham Athletic, as well as enjoying a short stay in the UAE with Masfout. His brother Jean-Daniel meanwhile has enjoyed a rather more illustrious career to date, scoring in a Champions League match against Borussia Dortmund for Lazio earlier this season.

I actually saw Jean-Louis play in the last live football match I managed to get to before the pandemic hit as he is now plying his trade at Radcliffe FC. Fair to say that at 35, he no longer possessed the pace that occasionally saw him ghost past defenders at Spotland, although he was still a handful for the Whitby Town defenders in a 2-2 draw at Stainton Park.

For anyone who doesn't remember or has never seen the CCF blog, in which Mike documents his memories of every player to play for Dale from his first game in 1981 right through to the end of the promotion season in 2009/2010, you can read it here: http://clarkechroniclersfootballers.blogspot.com

Photo: Action Images

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