By Ryan Kelly
After scoring a hat-trick on his competitive debut, Sligo Rovers striker Eric Odhiambo could be forgiven for basking in the limelight; a lively performance away to Crusaders in the Setanta Cup yielded three well-taken goals. It was the perfect start. However, the 24-year-old remains humble, opting instead to play down his emphatic arrival onto the Irish scene.
“It's still early in pre-season. It's a work in progress at the moment,” he told Goal. “We're still not at the level that we want to be at but there's a long way to go so I won't get too carried away.”
Odhiambo officially joined Sligo Rovers in January after a move to the Showgrounds collapsed in the summer of 2013. Despite seeing his initial transfer scuppered by bureaucracy, he retained a desire to join the Bit O' Red and explained that the allure of European football was a massive factor in his decision to eventually link up with Ian Baraclough's team.
“At the time [of the initial transfer] they were in Europe and just about to play Molde, so it was quite an easy sell for the club,” he said. “There will be players with greater CVs than mine that haven't had the chance to play in Europe, so that's obviously a big draw.”
A former Leicester City youth player, Odhiambo comes to the club with no shortage of experience. Indeed, his nomadic career has taken him around England and north to Scotland, where he counts Dundee and Inverness Caledonian Thistle among his former employers. A spell in the Turkish 1. Lig for Denizlispor preceded his move to Ireland. So how is he settling into the environs of the League of Ireland?
“I've been impressed by it,” he said. “The manager has come in and he's really worked on trying to improve the level and raise the standards at the club.
“In terms of opposition, I've not seen too much, bar a couple of games last season, but there are certainly some good players at Sligo Rovers.”
Competing on a European stage is evidently to the fore of Odhiambo's thinking and he is determined to help the club improve on that front. Although they have risen to the top domestically in recent years, the Bit O'Red have fallen short in Europe, failing to win in their five previous appearances in the Champions League and the Europa League.
“We're setting our targets on trying to be better in Europe,” explained Odhiambo. “Sligo Rovers have never got past the first round and that's something we're looking to try and improve on.”
He added: “If we set our standards to a European level, then the league will take care of itself; that's our target, that's our aim. Everything else will take care of itself if we set our standards that high.”
With the prospect of European football on the agenda, Odhiambo is also hopeful that he can make a case for inclusion in the Tanzania national team. “Of course,” he said when asked if international honours were on his mind.
“There's a great pride that comes with playing for your country and if that opportunity arose at any point that is something that I'd obviously look to do.
“I think, at the moment, the players in the team are all domestically based, so at this moment in time for a player playing outside the country they would have to be doing well.
“That will depend on how I play for Sligo Rovers; I'll have to play really well to catch the eye.”
The standards have been set high. With a return of three goals in his competitive debut, it is safe to say that it's so far, so good for Odhiambo.