Thanks to Adebayo Akinfenwa of Wycombe Wanderers
He was told he was too old to play football and had to find another job.
Fast forward 22 years, Adebayo Akinfenwa has amassed nearly 800 career games and scored over 200 career goals.
His life as a footballer saw him travel to Lithuania, Wales and across England where he achieved gargantuan success.
An hour and a half after the end of Wycombe’s game against Doncaster, @daRealAkinfenwa He was still seen signing autographs and taking pictures with fans who remember behind. He also posed with this week @bucksfreepress which is dedicated to him. We will miss you, B 🔵 pic.twitter.com/MEvnrmG3gt
—James Richings (@James_BFP) April 2, 2022
Promotions, player of the season awards, thousands of fans worldwide, what was seen as a ‘publicity stunt’ when he walked through the doors of Adams Park as a Wycombe Wanderers player for the first time in 2016 has become probably the biggest piece of business Gareth Ainsworth has done for the club.
It looks like the boss must have contacted the Big Man on WhatsApp six years ago.
READ MORE: Footballer, gentleman, legend: Wycombe fans show support for Adebayo Akinfenwa with photos
So as the 40-year-old prepares for his final game as a professional footballer who happens to be at Wembley Stadium in this year’s League One play-off final against Sunderland, how is Akinfenwa feeling ahead of his swan song?
🗣 “They faced an English football legend, absolute legend”
Pep Guardiola has nothing but praise for Adebayo Akinfenwa after Man City beat Wycombe in the Carabao Cup tie last night 🙌 pic.twitter.com/uW5qQU9Hqk
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) September 22, 2021
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live after the Chairboys beat Milton Keynes in the semi-final, he said: “If it’s 10 minutes, two minutes, to be able to step out onto the hallowed turf for my final kick in the professional game is a great end to my story – as long as we get the win.
A win on May 21 will be the Beast’s third promotion with Wanderers, and will end a 22-year journey that began in Hertfordshire.
—James Richings (@James_BFP) February 8, 2020
Although a lifelong Liverpool fan, Akinfenwa started his career with Watford as the team’s youth player in the 2000/01 season.
He was released without making a first-team appearance for the Hornets and opted to travel to the Baltic region of Europe, to sign for Lithuanian side FK Atlantas.
Twelve months away from British soil and Bayo was back, having spent just over a season with Barry Town in Wales.
Jheeeze it brings back memories 💪🏿💪🏿 https://t.co/Iy33j6k0TG
— daRealAAkinfenwa (@daRealAkinfenwa) May 10, 2022
He then became a journeyman through the EFL, notably playing for four teams in the 2003/04 season.
—James Richings (@James_BFP) April 23, 2022
READ MORE: Thanks for the memories Bayo – Saying goodbye to one of Wycombe’s greatest players
Stints at Boston United, Leyton Orient, Rushen & Diamonds and Doncaster Rovers followed before he finally got the first campaign under his belt where he scored 10+ goals.
The 2004/05 season saw Akinfenwa move to Torquay where he scored 16 goals in 41 appearances.
This earned him a move to Swansea City 12 months later, where he would spend the next two years.
What followed as an unforgettable six-month spell with Millwall in the 2007/08 season saw him move on again, spending two-and-a-half years scoring goals with Northampton.
Adebayo Akinfenwa at Millwall
Nine games, zero goals pic.twitter.com/Chget2FdHO
– Forgotten Football Signings (@FFSignings) January 26, 2021
A season at Gillingham followed before returning to Northampton for a further two years before joining the Gills again for the 2013/14 season.
Two years with AFC Wimbledon followed and we all know where he went next.
So what will Akinfenwa be up to when he hangs up his boots for the last time on May 21?
He told BBC Radio 5 Live again: “I would love to do a Beast shoulder load – I’m a huge WWE fan and so are my kids, so when they came to the UK I stretched hand and we had a few conversations, and we’ll just see what happens,” he said.
—James Richings (@James_BFP) February 8, 2022
READ MORE: Memories for life: Your photos with Adebayo Akinfenwa over the past six seasons
“I’ve been a professional for 22 years so I don’t want any other job in particular. I want to try a lot of things.
“There’s the wrestling, there’s the mentoring, the presenting, but I’ll stay in the media because football has been a huge aspect of my life.
“For me, I’m not saying the world is my oyster but I’m going to try as many different things as I can, and what I land with is what I land with.”
After being abused by the traveling ‘fans’, Akinfenwa spent nearly 10 minutes taking selfies with Wycombe fans after the match.
A man who has never said no to any adoring fan.
— Taylor Toney-Green (@TaylorTG_) January 29, 2022
In 22 years, Adebayo Akinfenwa scored in cup finals, earned promotions, became a brilliant media personality, a fan favourite, a pundit and a businessman.
He scored against his boyhood team, enjoyed a career many can dream of and left us with memories for a lifetime.
Thank you for everything Bayou.
You will miss us.