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Akinfenwa's the 16-stone 'Beast' who's become a social media star... so how will Ipswich stop the unique Wycombe striker?

PUBLISHED: 12:00 26 November 2019

Ipswich Town will have to face Adebayo Akinfenwa this evening. Picture: PA/INSTAGRAM

Ipswich Town will have to face Adebayo Akinfenwa this evening. Picture: PA/INSTAGRAM

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The Ipswich Town defence will come up against the 'strongest player in world football' this evening.

Adebayo Akinfenwa pictured with Wycombe manager Gareth Ainsworth. Picture: PAAdebayo Akinfenwa pictured with Wycombe manager Gareth Ainsworth. Picture: PA

Adebayo Akinfenwa, now 37 and known as 'the Beast', is larger than life and will offer the Blues' defence a unique challenge.

He stands less than six feet tall but in terms of pure strength, he can't be beaten. So much so the FIFA video game series has awarded him the highest rating for 'strength' since 2005.

But before we jump into why this journeyman striker has transcended football, we first need to appreciate he's had a pretty good career on the pitch. He's certainly no gimic.

He's played more than 500 games for the likes of Torquay, Swansea, Northampton, Gillingham, Wimbledon and now Wycombe, scoring more than 200 goals in the process without plying his trade above League One.

Akinfenwa, pictured at Tottenham's White Hart Lane before an FA Cup game in 2017. Picture: PAAkinfenwa, pictured at Tottenham's White Hart Lane before an FA Cup game in 2017. Picture: PA

He has six goals and a further six assists so far this season and, while his look may suggest he's all about bullying defenders, he possesses good touch, a quick football brain and real technical ability.

That being said, there's no doubting his major weapon. Strength. Pure, brute strength. The kind of brute strength which at times make him look out of place on a football pitch and has made him more famous than his achievements in the game.

He follows a strict gym programme, made up largely of weights (he can bench press 28 stone) but he ensures he does his fair share of cardio work so he can still get around the pitch.

He eats a lot, of course, with heavy daily intakes of chicken and carbohydrates.

He had been following that regime for years but Akinfenwa hit a global audience in 2015 when, while a Wimbledon player, he scored an FA Cup equaliser against Liverpool which was screened on televisions around the world.

He has more than a million followers on Instagram, a further 200,000 on Twitter (three times more than his club's official account) and has opposition supporters queuing to meet him wherever he goes.

His cult status from those FIFA games has seen him attend events around the world and meet some of the games biggest and best players, who are all aware of Akinfenwa due to his standing in the video game.

It's also helped him launch a clothing line, Beast Mode On, as well as a charity with the name Beast Mode State of Mind which will launch next year and look to help athletes who endure racial abuse and suffer mental health issues as a result. He suffered himself while a young player in Lithiania and is keen to help others who find themselves in similar situations.

Ipswich Town will have to face Adebayo Akinfenwa this evening. Picture: PAIpswich Town will have to face Adebayo Akinfenwa this evening. Picture: PA

That he's still playing at the top of the third tier at the age of 37, weighing 16 stone and carrying his rippling muscles around the pitch is a testament to his durability, attitude, and work ethic.

He's no big-time Charlie, either, anyone who has played with him will tell you he's truly a gentle giant who would do anything for anyone.

He may well start on the bench tonight but, if and when he makes it onto the field, it will be fascinating to see how the Ipswich defenders cope.

Luke Chambers on the challenge of facing Akinfenwa

"The same as he's always been! He's had an absolutely tremendous career. You have to respect him for what he's done.

"He's scored a hell of a lot of goals which people probably don't realise. He played for my hometown club of Northampton after I left and had some good spells there.

"He's just a good honest professional who has made the most out of his career and his attributes.

"He's just very, very strong. You can't get over the top of him, you can't poke your toe around him, you've just got to try and get yourself in the best position to try and potentially win a header over the top.

Akinfenwa is known as 'The Beast' and has his own clothing line - Beast Mode On. Picture: PAAkinfenwa is known as 'The Beast' and has his own clothing line - Beast Mode On. Picture: PA

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"But you can't get too bogged down in Akinfenwa. There are a lot of other threats in their team

"Yes, they'll probably look to get it forward to him as quickly as possible and play off him because that's worked for them so far this season.

"It's our job to cover around each other, stay with runners and defend properly. "Pressure on the ball will be needed high up the pitch to stop those deliveries.

(left to right) Jorgie Porter, Melinda Messenger, winner Carl Fogarty and Adebayo Akinfenwa, after playing the Big Bluf poker event. Picture: PA(left to right) Jorgie Porter, Melinda Messenger, winner Carl Fogarty and Adebayo Akinfenwa, after playing the Big Bluf poker event. Picture: PA

"It's pretty clear what we need to do."

Janoi Donacien's guide to stopping 'The Beast'

"It's a battle but you have to take away his strengths," he said.

"You need to push up and play a high line because if you drop deep then he's just going to hold five or 10 players off and bring the ball down.

"But if you have a high line then you can compact around him. Not many people can hold 15 players off so we're just going to have to make it as difficult as we can for him."

Wycombe captain Matt Bloomfield on his 'gentle giant' friend

"He's certainly different," Bloomfield said.

"Everywhere we go, every ground we go to, there's a bigger queue of people hoping to meet him than there is the home players. It never ceases to amaze me quite how famous and big he's become through social media and FIFA.

Adebayo Akinfenwa (centre) and Laura Woods (right) during the 2019 PFA Awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London.Adebayo Akinfenwa (centre) and Laura Woods (right) during the 2019 PFA Awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London.

"I have nothing but praise for him because he's a really incredible man whose work ethic is second to none. It's not the Akinfenwa show, it's the Wycome Wanderers club for him and he's just a cog in the wheel.

"There aren't many of the older players left at the club now so it's me, him and Joe Jacobson who help manager the changing room and Bayo's been remarkable for us. He's probably been one of the best signings the club's made in recent history.

"His goal return, the presence he has on the pitch and the camaraderie he brings is huge and everyone knows about Wycombe through him.

"He doesn't get the recognition he deserves for his footballing ability, either.

Ipswich Town will have to face Adebayo Akinfenwa this evening. Picture: PAIpswich Town will have to face Adebayo Akinfenwa this evening. Picture: PA

"He's defying the odds to be doing what he's doing at 37 because, carrying the body that he does, he has no right to be churning out goals. But through his mind and through sheer hard work he's reaping the benefits of everything he does.

"I've asked him to do videos for friends as wedding presents and for good luck videos and things like that and he is always willing to help you, no matter what it is.

"He's got a big heart and we love having him at our club. He's not a bad player, either."

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