Football

Published: Saturday August 30, 2014 MYT 2:12:42 AM
Updated: Saturday August 30, 2014 MYT 2:13:30 AM

Superman Valencia needs time to wow West Ham

LONDON (Reuters) - Ecuador’s Enner Valencia is itching to regain the form that earned him the nickname "Superman" and show fans why West Ham United brought the World Cup striker to Upton Park.

His scoring prowess had been such that his wife reckons he should wear a Superman top under his shirt and show it to celebrate a goal.

"But I haven’t...I might get booked," the 24-year-old said with a grin as he warmed to an interview at West Ham’s stadium in East London.

Valencia, who is embarking on the third stage of a career very much in the ascendancy that took him from Ecuador to Mexico and now England in the space of nine months, told Reuters of his excitement at playing in the Premier League.

"I was made really welcome... It’s marvellous (to be here), I’m going to try to make the most of everything while I’m in London, it’s good to leave your country, get to know a new culture, a new language, I’m going to try to adapt to it all.

"I hope to keep improving to be able to give a lot of happiness to the people of West Ham who have put their faith in me and signed me," he said after an autograph signing session at the club shop when West Ham promoted a "Kids for a Quid (pound)" deal to see Saturday’s match against Southampton.

Talking of football in England, he added: "It’s a very combative, tough game, you’ve got to be well prepared physically to be able to give all in the 90 minutes.

"I like to have a lot of mobility, make the most of my speed, get into spaces," said Valencia, who made his Premier League debut in the 1-0 defeat by Tottenham Hotspur as a 81st-minute substitute two weeks ago.

West Ham manager San Allardyce would have preferred to give Valencia more time to find his feet in England and become match fit following a late holiday after the World Cup.

However, a glut of injuries in the squad meant the Ecuadorean made his first start in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday, a penalty shootout loss to third tier Sheffield United in which he had the misfortune to miss the decisive spot kick.

"We had to play him for 120 minutes because of the circumstances. He got through it exceptionally well, but he has a long way to go still to catch his match fitness up," Allardyce said on Thursday.

"It's my job to make sure he is 100 percent fit to be ready to go on a regular basis, and once he does that, we hope he proves himself as soon as he possibly can to show the goal scoring ability we know he's got."

WHIRLWIND YEAR

Valencia, who grew up on a modest farm on Ecuador’s Pacific coast and would be helping tend his family’s cattle and pigs if he were not a footballer, began his career at Emelec in the port city of Guayaquil and helped them win the Ecuadorean league title last year.

He then joined Pachuca of Mexico for $4.8 million (2.8 million pounds) in December and moved on to West Ham three weeks ago for a reported 12 million pounds ($19.90 million) in a whirlwind 2014 he could only have only dreamt of a year ago.

Top scorer for Pachuca with 18 goals in 23 matches on the team’s run to the final of the Mexican Clausura championship which they lost to Leon in May, Valencia then scored three at the World Cup in Brazil.

Ecuador were left to rue the last-gasp winner they conceded to Switzerland in their opening match that ultimately cost them a ticket to the knockout phase.

"I had that chance to score goals at a World Cup which was a great experience," Valencia said.

"There was huge disappointment among all of us there, players, coaching staff, directors. It hurt a lot to lose in the final seconds," he said recalling the 2-1 defeat by the Swiss.

"That complicated things for us but we fought to the end, more than that you can’t do," added Valencia, who failed to add to his tally in the 0-0 draw with France that ended Ecuador’s tournament.

"Now we have to look ahead, we have friendlies with the national team, then the Copa America (in Chile next year) where we have to try to have a good tournament."

Valencia rewarded World Cup coach Reinaldo Rueda’s faith in him as successor to the late Christian Benitez, who died of heart failure aged 27 in July 2013, by scoring seven goals in 13 internationals since his February 2012 debut.

Ecuador are now under Sixto Vizuete, the coach Valencia played for in the Under-21 team at the 2011 Panamerican Games in Guadalajara, but he is grateful to Colombian Rueda, who was not retained, for his international chance and the progress he has made over the last year.

"I would have loved it (for Rueda to stay), he was the coach who gave me my chance in the national team but, well, that’s football and you have to look ahead," he said before friendlies next week against Bolivia and Brazil in the United States.

(1 US dollar = 0.6030 British pound)

(Editing by Mark Meadows)

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