Our latest Bred A Blue podcast guest is former midfielder Hope Akpan.
Born in Liverpool, Akpan joined the Everton Academy when he was eight years old and moved through the age groups to play for the First Team.
He was one of several debutants when David Moyes’ side played BATE Borisov in the Europa League at Goodison Park in December 2009.
Akpan came off the bench to replace Jack Rodwell after just eight minutes as Everton, who had already qualified from the group stage, lost 1-0.
“That was a massive surprise and I don’t know if it helped or made things worse,” he said. “There was no time to get nervous.
“We wanted to make an impression so to lose put a bit of a dampener on the night.”
It would be his one and only appearance for the senior side, but he later played Premier League football for Reading and forced his way on to the international scene with Nigeria.
In Bred A Blue, Akpan tells of his relationship with Moyes: “He’s got a presence about him. I remember being in the gym and whenever Moyesy came in, I would sneak out. But he was always fair.”
He also recalls almost missing a pre-season trip to Austria with the First Team after losing his passport, how the Nigerian internationals Joseph Yobo, Yakubu and Victor Anichebe looked out for him, and how his eventual exit from Everton surprised him.
Akpan was a victim of online racist abuse when he was still a young player but again showed his strength of character to rise above it.
“Social media was just starting but to be honest it didn’t faze me too much,” he said. “We can do more. But it’s a shame that some people just aren’t educated enough in 2022 to not have those thoughts in their minds.
"There’s definitely been progress but social media gives people an easy ride.”
After leaving the Blues, Akpan represented Crawley Town, Reading, Blackburn Rovers, Burton Albion and Bradford City but admits that although he lost his spark and his enthusiasm for football isn’t the same as it was, he hasn’t totally given up on the game.
In the meantime, he has launched his own business. Plant Boost is a health-conscious eatery in Hale and he clearly has a passion for it.
“Being in football for ten years and trying to stay in tip-top shape helped me apply myself to this," he explained.
“The personnel at Everton did a lot so that whether you made it or not (as a footballer), you had a good footing and a good understanding of life and what it takes to make it in any field.”
Listen to Hope Akpan's Bred a Blue story here or in the player below.
To catch up on other episodes of Bred A Blue, featuring guests including Scott Brown, Peter Clarke and Shane Duffy, click here.