On Saturday afternoon, a strong West Ham United team dominated Doncaster Rovers as the Hammers breezed past the League One side to face Manchester United in the FA Cup fifth round.
Oladapo Afolayan scored eight minutes into his debut, coming on for Tomas Soucek in the 70 minute, tapping-in from close range.
Mark Noble played a great ball into Pablo Fornals' feet to allow the Spaniard to flick the ball into the path of Ryan Fredericks. The right-back drove at the Rovers' defence and forced Ellery Balcombe into a low dive, pushing the ball into the path of Afolayan, who capitalised on the opportunity.
Despite playing for West Ham's development team, the 23-year-old has not been apart of the West Ham Academy for that long. The striker joined in 2018 following a series of short spells at non-league teams and even at University level.
Since the age of five, Afolayan went through the youth system at Chelsea before leaving after nine years to focus more on school and his academical side.
“One thing my family have always shown me is openness and that there are lots of different paths you can take to a place and after I left Chelsea as a schoolboy I wanted to do my GCSEs." said Oladapo Afolayan in an interview with West Ham TV.
When he turned 15, Afolayan moved to Canada and spent time in Toronto FC's reserve squad. He trained alongside former West Ham Academy graduate, Jermaine Defoe, in the first team.
Returning to England a few years later, he went on to study civil engineering at Loughborough University, whilst also continuing to play youth football with Barnet and Tooting & Mitcham United. He also featured for Loughborough University football team.
“I came back home and went to university just trying to get a degree and play football at the same time."
In 2017, Afolayan joined National League outfit Solihull Moors, scoring on his debut in a 3–0 win over Sutton United. He scored 15 goals in 45 games in his only year at the club. The striker left the club half way through the 2017–18 campaign, but still was Solihull's top-scorer come the end of the season.
Afolayan joined the Hammers in 2018, signing a three-and-a-half year contract with the Club. Nearly a year later, he joined Oldham Athletic on a short loan spell which led him to make his Football League debut for the Latics.
He had another loan spell in League Two on another short-loan with Mansfield Town. Manager, John Dempster, was very happy with the youngster.
"What impressed me was the distance he covered. He was pressing all over the pitch. He ran himself into the ground".
A debut fails to get much better than a comfortable win, in addition with a goal to seal the deal. The Englishmen was very happy with his special moment.
“It’s been a long time coming.
"I’ve worked my socks off for the last three years, had a few serious injuries and just worked to get back to full fitness and full sharpness. I’ve been able to do that this season and I’m just happy it’s paid off.
As the global pandemic continues, no fans were allowed into the London Stadium, meaning Afolayan's family could not see his first appearance.
“I know my family would have been at home watching.
"When I left this morning my Dad was just sat in the front room with nothing on the TV – I think he was more nervous than me!"