A former Premier League footballer has spoken about his fondness for Oxford while appearing at a festival in the city. 

Nedum Onuoha made 427 appearances for Manchester City, Queens Park Rangers, Sunderland and Real Salt Lake City in a career that spanned 16 years.

He was at the University of Oxford on Thursday, March 21, to give a talk about his career and autobiography Kicking Back as part of 2024’s Literary Festival.

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Having visited last year for the same event and been asked to return due to popularity, Nedum spoke to the Oxford Mail in an exclusive interview about a variety of topics including his love of the city itself.

“I had more time last year to walk around and I enjoyed it as it feels like a really historic city,” said the 37-year-old.

Bicester Advertiser: Nedum gave a talk at the University of Oxford.Nedum gave a talk at the University of Oxford. (Image: KT Bruce)

“I think it is also interesting to be here from a university standpoint as with Oxford and Cambridge it feels like mythical places that only certain people get the chance to see.

“To get to come down here and see the campus and feel the vibe is very cool actually.

“Oxford feels like the place to me that you sort of know and drive past on the M40 but realistically to get the chance to come here is great.

“I would love to come back and have more time so I could actually walk around and see it because the history must be remarkable.”

Nedum, who is now a pundit for BBC, stayed in school and college alongside his early football career garnering brilliant GCSE and A-Levels results.

Bicester Advertiser: Nedum spent the majority of his career at Manchester City after coming up through the club's academy.Nedum spent the majority of his career at Manchester City after coming up through the club's academy.

Despite getting straight A grades in the latter, he insists there was no plan of ever coming to the University of Oxford.

“University-wise, the scores were pretty high and I would have loved to have had the opportunity to do that,” he revealed.

“One thing that I feel like I have missed out on in my life is being at halls and dorms, doing the whole university life but I also played football professionally during that time as well.

“I would have loved to have experienced what it was like to be at university but playing in the Premier League is by far a better experience.”

Having chosen to pursue a football career instead, Nedum soon became a regular for Manchester City in the Premier League.

He found himself in an unusual position by January 2012 having moved away from the club permanently.

Bicester Advertiser: Academy players from Oxford United came to listen to the talk.Academy players from Oxford United came to listen to the talk. (Image: KT Bruce)

Joining fellow Premier League side Queens Park Rangers, Nedum was in a relegation dogfight while former club City were pursuing their first league title in 44 years.

As fate would have it, QPR visited City’s Etihad Stadium for the final game of the season with everything riding on the fixture for both clubs.

Roberto Mancini’s City side was aiming to claim the title on the day from neighbours United whereas their visitors and Nedum were desperate to get a result to help them stay up.

“If they won the title, I could be going down at the Etihad in front of all these fans that used to support me as well as my friends,” said Nedum.

“It was the longest week of my life building up to the game.”

Bicester Advertiser: Nedum playing for Sunderland on loan from Manchester City.Nedum playing for Sunderland on loan from Manchester City.

Despite being down to 10 men and storming into a shock 2-1 lead, QPR let in two late goals from City strikers Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero to lose the game.

As the Etihad Stadium delved into delirium with celebrations following Aguero’s last-gasp, now iconic winner, Nedum was left experiencing a strange feeling.

“That feeling of the ball hitting the net was strange because I did not know we were safe,” he added.

“I felt physically sick on the pitch and I was so lost by the noise.

"I didn’t even know who scored the goal for City even though I was a close distance away.

“After 10 seconds I looked up and saw the QPR fans and bench celebrating and all of a sudden it was the highest point of my career because I knew we were safe but City won the title at the expense of Man United.”

Bicester Advertiser: Nedum has now visited Oxford two years in a row.Nedum has now visited Oxford two years in a row. (Image: KT Bruce)

Nedum later moved to the United States in 2020 to play for Major League Soccer side Real Salt Lake City in Utah where he retired two years later.

One noteworthy incident during his time abroad was when his side clashed with Los Angeles Galaxy in April 2019.

The former defender was tasked with marking legendary Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic who was very much the face of the MLS at the time.

Ibrahimovic challenged Nedum, pulling him to the ground on the pitch before later storming into the defender’s changing room to confront him.

“In the second half, he put me in a headlock and threw me to the floor so here I am, in Los Angeles after being thrown to the floor by Ibrahimovic,” he told the Oxford Mail.

“I thought 'what’s going on here?' and he told me to get up.

"At this point, I wasn’t very eloquent and I delivered a very straight message to him about what I thought about him and his personality."

Bicester Advertiser: Nedum playing for QPR after leaving boyhood club Manchester City.Nedum playing for QPR after leaving boyhood club Manchester City. (Image: PA Archive/PA Images)

Ibrahimovic scored the winner in a 2-1 victory for his side but the rivalry did not stop there between the two players.

“We went back and forth throughout that game and after the game I was so frustrated sat in the dressing room land he walked in,” added Nedum.

“Talk about surreal moments and he asks if I have calmed down yet so, unfortunately, the red mist kicked in again so I stood up, got in his face and politely asked him to leave.

Nedum laughed while recalling the story, seeing the funny side to the tale and its remarkable denouement.

“It was a weird moment because I was like I hate this guy so much and we had to play them again in a few months so I was getting ready like Rocky for a fight where this is serious,” he revealed

“But then when we played the second time he was really nice and it confused me but I think he respected that I went toe-to-toe with him.

“I still don’t understand it but he’s one of the greatest players to have played the game.”