“It’s that time of the year again is it?” Efan mused as we reminded him of his four goals at Goodison Park ahead of Norwich City’s game there this weekend.
Ekoku wrote his name into Norwich City folklore when he became the first player to score more than three goals in one Premier League game in City’s 5-1 win at Everton in September 1993.
“They were four very good goals and it was a great day out,” Efan said, looking back on the late-summer afternoon 26 years ago. “It was the first time I’d been to Goodison Park as a player. Being a Liverpudlian and a Liverpool fan who grew up in the city, it was a big day. I don’t remember getting too many butterflies beforehand.
“Norwich were playing in Europe and had the Vitesse Arnhem second leg in the UEFA Cup a few days later, so a lot of focus was on that and the Everton game felt like the warm-up act. It was just another day at the office for us and it turned out to be pretty good.”
Having grown up a Liverpool fan, it would have been no surprise to hear Efan say that a game against Everton offered extra incentive to score goals, but he insisted that wasn’t the case.
“It only really dawned on me afterwards. I had a few friends from school who I’d grown up with who were at the game as well as a couple of dads who ran my Sunday league team. It was quite nice to see them afterwards, but I never paid that too much attention before the game.
“Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I was able to give my best – because I saw it as just another match.
“I scored one with the right foot, two with the left and one with the head, so it was nice to get the perfect hat-trick and one extra for good measure. The fourth goal is my favourite that I’ve ever scored with my left foot. It felt the sweetest.”
Of course, Ekoku’s Norwich career wasn’t just determined by one game, and his time in Norfolk was a period he enjoyed, despite their failure to win the league title in the 1992-93 season.
“All round, it was very good,” he said. “I joined on transfer deadline day in March 1993. The team was in the thick of a title race with seven or so games to go. It was a good time to join the club and it would have been great to finish it off and win the league.
“That proved to be beyond us which was a shame. I didn’t play as many minutes as I’d have liked to, and I didn’t start a game until the final one of the season. That was away to Middlesbrough and we needed a point to make sure we qualified for Europe.
“It was a shame that it petered out after spending more weeks on top than Manchester United, who won the title. They’re expected to win trophies and are used to winning stuff, otherwise things could have turned out differently which would have been historic.
“All in all, it was a great experience coming from AFC Bournemouth, who had been two divisions below Norwich.”
Asked to turn attention to the current situation at Carrow Road, Efan explained that Daniel Farke, despite his suggestions that City won’t change the way they play, might opt to tweak a few things stylistically to be successful this season.
“Very few of the players have top-flight experience apart from Tim Krul and Alexander Tettey. It’s a huge step from the Championship, even though they were the best team in that last season. They’re now facing some of the best players in the world on a regular basis.
“It’s about getting over the mental fatigue of losing matches even when you’re playing well. You can play your A game and draw at home and play your A game again and lose heavily. That can be very dispiriting.
“The big job for Daniel is to be able to keep some kind of level-head with the players and for everyone around the club not to get too despondent when they lose, or get overly excited when they have big victories like they did against Manchester City.
“You want to see some kind of improvement and some kind of capacity to learn, to show that you’ve got the nous to make the team play a different way. You want to see the manager being aware that things aren’t working and changing it.
“We all want to see a brand of football like Man City and Liverpool play, but they have some of the best players in the world. No-one’s saying the team can’t play attractive football but playing smarter football would be beneficial and help them to be in the midst of four or five teams who aren’t much better.”
Since hanging up his boots, Efan has been commentating for various broadcasters around the world, and discussed the challenges he’s faced off the pitch.
"I love to see Farke win, starting this weekend at Goodison Park"
“I’m enjoying the commentary, it’s fun and it’s less hard work than playing, of course! There’s less pressure, but you have to keep abreast of what’s going on among as many teams as you can. I cover the Premier League and the Bundesliga and do the odd French game as well, so I see a lot of European football.
“I still love being involved in the game. I’m coming up to Norwich next weekend for the Arsenal game, so I’ll be covering that for the Premier League. That will be the first time I’ve been up since the Chelsea game. It will be nice to see if there’s been any kind of evolution.
“I hope that there’s been one or two subtle changes behind the scenes, even with Farke’s public utterances about sticking to their principles.
“Ultimately, what really matters is to get as many points as you can, and it doesn’t matter how ugly they play between now and the end of the campaign. If they get enough points to stay fourth-bottom or better, it’s a great campaign.
“I wish Daniel luck and I love to see him win, starting this weekend at Goodison Park and then at Carrow Road next week. I wish him all the best and that he has as many players fit as possible to maintain their Premier League status.”