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Friday, 23 August, 2002, 06:10 GMT 07:10 UK
LuaLua stirs the memories
Newcastle striker Lomana LuaLua scores in a Premiership game against Charlton
LuaLua scores in spectacular style against Charlton last season
BBC Sport Online's Stuart Roach

Newcastle's in-form striker Lomana LuaLua is looking to continue his hot goalscoring streak when the Magpies visit Manchester City on Saturday.

But there are still those who remember the innocent teenager who failed to find the net in a Colchester college match.

Football scout Geoff Harrop was taking charge of English college football champions Colchester in their clash with Leyton College in 1998 when a player from the opposition caught his eye in spectacular style.

The Hackney Marshes pitches where Lomana LuaLua first played football
LuaLua learned his trade on Hackney Marshes

LuaLua ran the show for Leyton and ran rings round the Colchester side.

He didn't score, so no-one got to see the acrobatic celebrations which have now become the young striker's trademark.

But Harrop himself was head over heels.

"This young lad came on the pitch and completely ran the game," recalls Harrop.

"It was a joy to watch, but quite amazing in that he hadn't been playing for any club side.

"He was taking on the whole team by the end of the game and it wasn't hard to pick him out among 22 young 17-year-olds."

Harrop was quick to invite the striker from the Democratic Republic of Congo for a trial at Colchester, where he worked as a scout.


I don't think he realised he had a talent
Geoff Harrop

Having only started to play the game at the age of 16, kicking a ball around with friends on London's infamous football breeding ground of Hackney Marshes, LuaLua was a raw talent.

But Colchester manager Steve Wignall saw the same potential as Cook and within a week LuaLua was unleashed on unsuspecting Second Division defences.

"It all happened so quickly," Harrop recalls.

"He didn't have expectations of being a footballer but it just went from there. He was very good and he wanted to come on board and now history is in place.

"He's a lovely lad and very humble but my first thought was why had he not been found by other clubs. I don't think he realised that he had a talent."

But the fairytale did not unfold overnight.

The impressionable teenager was drawn more by nightclubs than Second Division football clubs and the Colchester staff faced a constant battle against his tardiness.

Striker Lomana LuaLua began his professional career at Colchester
LuaLua was snapped up by Colchester

"It took a lot of hard work by the staff at Colchester. Micky Cook, the director of youth, had to spend endless hours with him and Steve Wignall and then Steve Whitton had to spend a lot of time with him talking him through the tactical side of the game and what his role was within the team.

"It doesn't happen overnight there is a lot of work that goes in on the training ground that the supporters don't see.

"They worked wonders and Bobby Robson has taken his time too because Lomana hasn't gone straight into the Newcastle team.

"But now Sir Bobby clearly thinks the time is right to put the young lad in the limelight."

Suddenly, LuaLua no longer seems dazzled by that limelight.

Having waited until the last minute of his 45th domestic Newcastle game to register his first Premiership goal, LuaLua has now struck five times in his last six games.


He does tricks that would give me a hernia
Geoff Harrop

He only secured his place in the team because of an injury to Craig Bellamy, but Cook believes the player he discovered four years ago has now emerged as Alan Shearer's ideal strike partner.

"I think he is there to stay, without a doubt.

"On his day, he is unplayable and there are not many players in the Premiership who are like that.

"He does tricks that would give me a hernia but he's incredible and I can only wish him luck.

"Hopefully, our paths will cross again and we'll remember the day he played for a college team in Colchester."

In the meantime Harrop, now director of youth football at Rushden and Diamonds, is hoping to unearth another undiscovered treasure.

LuaLua may be a once in a lifetime find, but Harrop still believes he can hit the jackpot again.

"I'll always believe that and I'm looking for another Lomana.

"Every time you go and watch a kids game you are looking for that little gem and trying to fight off the teams around you who are trying to do the same thing."

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Football scout Geoff Harrop
"It wasn't hard to pick him out"
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