Appiah-Kubi’s redemption story to make Hyundai A-League history

Enjoying time with his newborn son and training on his own at a park in Adelaide, playing in the Hyundai A-League wasn’t really on Kwabena Appiah-Kubi’s radar five weeks ago.

Without a club after a short stint with Newcastle Jets at the end of the 2018/19 Season, the 27-year-old was in that place professional footballers dread to be - limbo.

It’s not like he didn’t have hope, in fact, there was some interest from a couple of overseas clubs that would ultimately fall through at the last minute.

Be there as Western United FC host Newcastle Jets at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday night.

It would have been a worrying time for some but Appiah-Kubi was prepared to bide his time and wait for the next opportunity to arise.

“As a player, it does kills you a little bit because you have packed your bags and are ready to go then it falls through and you are back to square one again,” he explained to a-league.com.au this week.

“I was in limbo for a while and by the time my agent started contacting [Hyundai A-League] clubs they were already full.

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“My wife’s from Adelaide so we’ve been living there with our three-month old son Romeo. I was training on my own to keep myself on my toes and to be ready for any opportunity that arose.

“You never know in football what can happen. One minute you don’t have a club, next minute you do.”

And that’s exactly how things turned out for the Auckland-born flyer.

Just days before the start of the Hyundai A-League season, the competition’s newest club Western United FC came calling.

Appiah-Kubi inked an injury-replacement deal – for the sidelined Valentino Yuel – and was soon on a plane to Wellington for the club’s first-ever match against the Phoenix.

A few weeks later – and after a couple of substitute appearances against the Phoenix and Melbourne City – Appiah-Kubi was thrust into the starting side for last weekend’s clash against his former club Western Sydney Wanderers.

WATCH: Appiah-Kubi nets the winner against Wanderers

Considering his situation just a few short weeks ago, it was almost written in the stars he would be the man to score the winning goal to help deliver the club their historic first-ever home win.

“It was a special moment,” Appiah-Kubi admitted.

“To go from not having a club a week before the season and not having a pre-season, and then five weeks later you are scoring the winner against one of the biggest clubs in the country.

“It makes you proud as a player that if you keep working hard you can reap the rewards.

“I’m just putting my head down and putting in the hard work to make sure it continues.”

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Western United FC’s 2-1 win over the Wanderers propelled Mark Rudan’s side to second spot on the Hyundai A-League ladder after five rounds.

It’s been a phenomenal start for the competition’s new boys, with some pundits – including Fox Sports’ Mark Bosnich – declaring they are a team that can go ‘all the way’ in their maiden campaign.

And Appiah-Kubi knows all about what it takes for a new club to have success in their first season.

He is the only member of the Western United squad that was also there in the Wanderers’ debut campaign back in 2012/13, which saw the Red and Black surge to the Premiership and a Grand Final.

While it’s early days, Appiah-Kubi can see the similarities between the two clubs.

“Year one at Wanderers we had incredible support. We have a great fan base here as well, a good core and hopefully it can keep growing,” he said.

“Similar to here, year one at Wanderers it was a great group and we had a great chemistry within the squad on and off the park.

“I see the same here as well.  We’re lucky to have great players that are also such great guys.

“It’s hit-and-miss at some other clubs but here I can confidently say there’s great players but they are great people as well.

“It’s a cliché but we’re really just taking it one game at a time. We know we have a great squad but it’s football, you have to keep yourselves level-headed and take each game as it comes. You can’t think further beyond that.”

Western United


It was fitting Appiah-Kubi’s redemption moment came against the Wanderers, the club where his career really got started back in 2012.

The Western Sydney-raised winger burst onto the scene under Tony Popovic in those early years and was a key part of the club’s incredible AFC Champions League triumph.

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But after leaving Western Sydney in 2015 for Wellington Phoenix, Appiah-Kubi found himself in a hole.

“When you are younger and you first get in the limelight, you start to worry about what people are saying or just trying to impress people to the point where you end up losing yourself,” he explained of those tough times.

“You can start to feel insecure as a player and everything that you know and everything that you do to get to a certain point goes out the window and you aren’t the same person.

“It wasn’t until I went to Central Coast Mariners [in 2016] under Paul Okon where I started to believe in myself and stopped putting so much self-doubt on myself which has probably hurt my career a lot, just having no belief and a lot of anxiety as well.

“I really found my confidence again at the Mariners and when I went overseas to Korea it was just oozing out of me.”

Be there as Western United FC host Newcastle Jets at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday night.

Kwabena Appiah-Kubi in action for the Mariners
Kwabena Appiah-Kubi in action for the Mariners

His eye-catching form at the Mariners saw Appiah-Kubi get signed by K-League outfit Incheon United, spending the 2018 season at the club.

“That was the best thing not just for my football but off the park as well. I loved every minute of it,” he said.

“Just going to a tougher league where they expect you to be a difference maker.

"You are pretty much thrown in the deep end straight away where you pretty much have to learn how to swim or you drown.

“It was the best thing because that’s where you find yourself as a player, you mature a lot more and you go out and try and be the best professional you can be.

“You have to adapt and you are only going to get better being in that environment. I definitely came back a better player.”

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