Blackpool defender continues to be a fast learner
Marvin Ekpiteta continues to take his game to a new level every year and couldn’t be happier with his progress.
The Blackpool centre-back was still playing non-league football with Leyton Orient in 2019 but is now playing at a higher level of the EFL for the third successive season.
That remarkable progress continued with a first Championship goal in last weekend’s 2-1 victory at Middlesbrough.
The 26-year-old Londoner said: “It’s been a good season for me. It’s my first in the Championship, so I’ve been enjoying it.
“I’ve just been taking everything in my stride and looking to learn from every game.
“It’s such a tough division, every game is difficult. You can never take your foot off the gas.
“It’s relentless as well, with games every Saturday and Tuesday.
“I’ve been enjoying every game – win, lose or draw – because I just want to enjoy the experience.
“I always felt I could get to this level but it was just about being patient and applying myself day after day, every game and every season. Now I just want to kick on.
“There’s a big difference between League One and this division, though. Every team is a big one, with big crowds and great players.
“A lot of these teams have been in the Premier League fairly recently, so it’s definitely a big jump.”
Yet Ekpiteta has bridged that gap superbly, earning the praise of boss Neil Critchley.
The head coach said: “Marvin has been excellent for us. He was one of the standout performers last season until he got his hamstring injury in February.
“Then when he came back we were on a good run and he found it tough to get back in, but we’d seen more than enough to know he was a very good player, and he’s gone on again this season to perform at a very high level very quickly.
“Marvin’s best trait is his mentality. He has improved quite a bit and will keep improving because he is hungry to get better and is never fazed by the environment he is in.
“He just sees it as an opportunity to showcase his ability. He gives his all in every game and I’m delighted with him.”
That transition has been made so much easier for Ekpiteta by the support of the Seasiders fans.
He said of last Saturday’s travelling contingent in the North East: “They were great throughout the whole game. They were so loud and kept us going as a team.
“Even though they were stuck away in the corner, they were the fans you could hear because they were singing non-stop.
“They were very loud and we really appreciate the support. For me it was a great feeling to celebrate my goal in front of them as well, so that’s a moment that will stay with me.”
After that brilliantly-taken goal at the Riverside, Ekpiteta even put his hand up as an emergency striker should the need arise.
It’s an offer Critchley would give serious consideration, adding: “Marvin used to be a striker as a young boy, so it’s not something unusual to him. He took his goal like a centre-forward and he did not panic.
“It’s something we have discussed (pushing Ekpiteta forward). We discussed it at Millwall when they scored in the 90th minute but we only really had injury time and we couldn’t get the information to Marvin to go up, but it’s something we will think about.”
That goal helped Blackpool towards a second win in eight days, following the home victory over Fulham.
Ekpiteta is now determined to make it three Championship victories against Barnsley tomorrow.
“It’s definitely been a positive few days for us but we just have to build on it now,” the defender said.
“We can’t rest on our laurels. We’ve got a free week now and then hopefully we can make it back-to-back wins with three points against Barnsley.”
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