Kei Kamara might have struggled to find his scoring boots during his time in English football, but the 30-year-old striker insists that he still enjoyed his spells with Norwich City and Middlesbrough.
Kamara was speaking to MLSsoccer.com this week after being named an MLS All-Star for the first time in his career, having been in sensational form for Columbus Crew SC so far this season.
Returning to the club where he began his career in 2006 last October following a disappointing 12-month spell on Teesside, the Sierra Leone international has since hit a league-leading 15 goals in 22 games and been touted as one of the favourites for the 2015 MVP award.
|2015 MLS||Position||Team||Goals||Goals MINS||Total Shots||Shooting Accuracy||Assists||Total Key Passes||Headers Won||Header Success||Appearances||Mins Played|
|Kei Kamara||FW||Columbus Crew||15||125.53||96||41.67%||4||25||101||56.74%||22||1883|
That said, the former Boro forward was no slouch during his previous MLS stint either, having scored 52 times in 192 regular-season appearances across spells at the Crew, San Jose Earthquakes, Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City, respectively.
His impressive form for Sporting KC even earned him a loan move to Norwich for the second half of the 2012-13 Premier League campaign but, despite going on to establish himself as a fan favourite at Carrow Road, a record of one goal in 11 games would not prove enough to land a permanent switch.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Kamara told MLSSoccer.com on Norwich's decision to let him leave. “They were a team that was struggling. They needed a striker to score some goals for them.
“So for a striker that they wanted – I only scored one – they wanted more. They weren’t safe in the relegation battle and my loan only extended until there were two games left in the season. They had to make all these decisions and the amount of money they had to pay for my transfer.”
Nevertheless, Kamara did head back to England the following season, joining Boro from SKC in September 2013 for around £900,000, before hitting an impressive four goals in his first eight games for the Championship club.
However, with injuries later taking their toll, the tall front man would go scoreless over the rest of the campaign and then found himself out of favour under the incoming Aitor Karanka heading into the 2013-14 season.
Those circumstances prompted him to cancel his contract at the Riverside Stadium last August and, despite receiving offers from multiple European clubs, opt to head back across the Atlantic to continue his MLS career.
That is so far proving to be an inspired decision but, at the same time, the league’s top scorer still has fond memories of his time in England – even if it was not quite what he expected.
“I really enjoyed my experience [in Norwich] and that was the reason for me to go back to England,” he added. “I’m not saying Middlesborough wasn’t great, but it wasn’t what I expected. I enjoyed my time there, and obviously it was Championship football.
“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, maybe you couldn’t handle Championship football.’ I scored goals when I was there.
“I’m 30; I can’t stay at a place where I’m not going to play or I didn’t know how many games I’m going to play. I could have bounced around to different clubs that wanted me, but it’s not all about the stability or saying, ‘I’m going to go to MLS because everyone knows I’m Kei Kamara there.”
Given his current form, one might even suggest that both Norwich and Boro gave up on Kamara too soon but, regardless, the veteran forward seems to have returned to the States a much better finisher than when he left.
With the Crew sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference after 22 games thanks to the combination of his goals and fellow All-Star Ethan Finlay’s assists, a play-off spot looks to be well within sight and, if their star striker can keep up his scoring run, then he could well find himself bestowed with MVP honours come December.
That would no doubt help increase his profile overseas and, who knows, perhaps even open up the option of a return to Europe - although whether he would want to go back at this point is up for debate.