It took Jonathan Afolabi just five minutes of his first Dundee start to open his account for the Dark Blues.
After spending time on loan at Dunfermline last year, the Irish striker now has an impressive three goals in eight Championship appearances to his name.
The ambitious 20-year-old is targeting a first-team place at Celtic.
First, though, he has to impress in his spell at Dens Park.
What type of player is he?
Afolabi has a number of skills that will worry any Championship defence this season.
His goal record already speaks to that.
After joining the Pars for the second half of last season, Afolabi fired in a winner against eventual champions Dundee United and an equaliser at home to Queen of the South.
This term he’s already grabbed a winner for his new side and has very much impressed in his short time in dark blue.
In his own words, he told The Athletic in March: “I’d put myself among the getting-in-behind types, as I like running off shoulders, but I also like holding the ball up, so maybe a bit of an in-between striker.
“When I played in Ireland when I was younger, because I have a lot of pace, the lads just played to my strength.
“They played balls in behind knowing I could reach it, so I never held the ball up much.
“When I moved to Southampton, I had to add a bit of diversity, so I worked hard on holding the ball up. Now I’m happy doing either.”
The early signs are promising
Making your debut at half-time 4-1 down at Hearts wasn’t the ideal starting point for any new player but Afolabi certainly set about his business at Tynecastle in the right manner.
Providing a target up front, the former Southampton man showed he can do the dirty work of holding the ball up but, when the chance comes, provides a directness of attack that defenders will find difficult to stop.
Manager James McPake has described Afolabi as a “throwback” to the old target-man style, who likes to “throw defenders about” but one who also strikes the ball sweetly.
He showed that in his first outing, a friendly victory over Peterhead, where the Celtic kid smashed one in from 25 yards.
🎥 | Subscribers can watch highlights from tonight's win over Peterhead and post match interviews with Dave Mackay and Jonathan Afolabi on DeeTV now #thedee
— Dundee Football Club (@DundeeFC) September 29, 2020
Football beginnings and an international dilemma
Born in Dublin to Nigerian parents, Afolabi had spells at Shamrock Rovers and St Joseph’s followed before English Premier League side Southampton came calling at the age of 16.
Working up through the Republic of Ireland age groups, Afolabi caught the eye in the 2019 U/19 European Championships, being named in the Team of the Tournament alongside Manchester City pair Eric Garcia and Ferran Torres as Ireland reached the semi-finals.
Now an U/21 international, Afolabi is still eligible to switch allegiance to Nigeria but has no plans to.
Speaking to the 42 ahead of the Euros, Afolabi said: “It can be tough. I’ve thought about it a couple of times, but I’ve overthought it.
— Southampton Magazine (@MagazineSoton) July 22, 2019
“Whereas I’ve grown up in Ireland, I know where I’m from is Tallaght in Dublin. I’ve spoken to my parents.
“My ma doesn’t know much about football, but she wants me play for Nigeria, because it’s her home country. But I’ve been playing with Ireland for a long time and want to keep that going. That’s the way I see it.
“My da is involved more, he’s into the football and helps me. He gets around. He’s asked me the question and I’ve told him Ireland, but I can’t rule anything out, because it’s too early.
“I’d like to play for Ireland, that’s who I feel I should be representing.”
Afolabi went into that tournament as a free agent shortly after being let go by Southampton.
The rejection came as a surprise to the youngster but it hasn’t dulled his ambition to make it to the top.
“It was a bit of a shock, because I thought I was doing well,” he told the 42.
“They saw other aspects and probably favoured someone else. I’m not in control of that.
“All I can do is keep doing what I’m doing and end up at the right club.
“It did hurt, but it’s just another stepping stone. I’m still young and I have time to make amends in a way.
“If I did wrong there, I can fix it somewhere else. It’s only the start.”
Three goals and a place in the Team of the Tournament meant offers weren’t slow in arriving for the striker after the U/19 Euros.
Lokomotiv Moscow, Wolves, Crystal Palace, Stoke and Middlesbrough were all reportedly interested in capturing his signature but Celtic was to be the next destination, with first-team chances central to his decision.
“It was a real opportunity. Celtic bring young players through, players that come into the team, and if they do well they stay there,” he said.
“Obviously there’s the big link with Ireland. I know the club well from home.
“There were a couple in my school who were diehard, so I knew plenty about the history, and the connection between Scotland and Ireland with the emigration.
“I just thought it was the right career move.”
The next stage
In order to make the Celtic first team, Afolabi has been set the task of impressing on loan in the Championship.
First it was East End Park and now it’s Dens Park where he has certainly started brightly.
The challenge for him now is to maintain his form and remain committed to becoming a better player.
“I can improve on anything and everything,” he said.
“I can get better on what I think I’m already good at. As long as I can pull off that trick or movement eight or nine times out of 10 in a senior game, I know I’ll make an impression.
“I can’t get complacent.”
Speaking to The Courier last week, he added: “The plan for me is to get more game time.
“I just want to get my head down and show everyone how I can be in training and matches.
“Hopefully, I can get my rewards.”
What his coaches say…
Afolabi hasn’t been in Dundee too long, having signed at the end of September and heading off for a spell on international duty, but he’s already impressed new boss James McPake.
The Dens gaffer said this week: “He’s been really good and brings a different dimension to us.
“He can be a throwback at times by taking the ball in but at the same time he’s a really good footballer, a great left foot.
“He showed that with his goal against Morton and against Peterhead in pre-season, he strikes the ball so cleanly.
“He doesn’t mind fighting with centre-backs either, which is rare nowadays.
“Particularly with players coming from academy football who are technically very good but sometimes not as keen to get involved in the physical side.
“But Jonathan doesn’t mind at all, he’ll take the ball in and fight the centre-backs and throw them about. We see it in training every day.
“He’s another we are trying to get up to the levels we want but we’re really pleased with him.
“He has a real hunger to do well.”
Tom Mohan, coach of the Irish U/19 side that performed so well last year, said of Afolabi in The Athletic: “People see a big fella but he likes to turn and go at defenders too in one-v-ones.
“He covers the ground quickly, has got a turn of pace, and he’s tactically smart.
“He’s got a great mentality, a great temperament about him. He’s a good lad, a mature lad, on and off the pitch.
“He knows his mind, knows what he wants, and he has a steely focus on what’s best for him.”