Wilfried Bony is well aware of the relationship between hard work and success. “I give 100 per cent in training, and attend extra individual shooting sessions,” the Eredivisie’s leading goalscorer told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview. “But you also need a bit of luck, as well as a lot of motivation,” he added, listing the three factors involved in his current run of good form.
The talented Ivorian forward has, during the past four months, confirmed the attacking potential he showed last season, in which he scored 17 goals in 32 matches. Joint leaders of the Dutch league, Vitesse Arnhem, guided by former PSV Eindhoven coach Fred Rutten, continue to reap the benefits of the confidence they placed in the then Sparta Prague player in January 2011, when they paid €4m for the then 21-year-old.
“As an attacker, you go through periods where luck and skill combine to help you out. You need to take advantage of those moments,” said the free-scoring frontrunner. Between 6 October and 25 November, the Bingerville native hit the back of the net no fewer than 12 times, including a hat-trick against Heerenveen, a brace versus Ajax and a winner away to PSV.
“Inevitably, when you score against big-name teams, the expectations of the public and the media tend to grow. And opposing defences definitely begin to pay you a lot more attention; these days, I get two or three defenders keeping an eye on me. I just have to adjust and learn how to play in a simpler, more effective way,” he explained.
Credited with an assist in Vitesse’s most recent outing, a 3-0 home win over Roda JC, the good-humoured African admits to also practising other aspects of his game apart from finishing.
“I’ve been working on my passing as a way of dealing with the tighter marking. If teams are trying harder to stop me scoring, I need to think about the team a bit more, and pick out passes when my way to goal is blocked,” he said ahead of his club’s trip to VVV Venlo on Sunday.
He states that his motto in life is “Keep moving forward”, a maxim which accurately sums up the career path of the Cyrille Domoraud Football Academy graduate. Brought up in the unstable environment of the Plateau area of Abidjan, Bony’s skills emerged while playing in the streets with his friends.
Bitten by the football bug after taking part in school-run and local competitions, he decided to return to his birthplace of Bingerville in order to enter the academy run by former Marseille centre-back Domoraud, where he would spend three fruitful years.
A trial with Liverpool in 2007 came to nothing, and two clubs from the League of Ireland subsequently passed up the chance to offer him a contract. In the end, it was the lower reaches of the Czech football pyramid which would provide a gateway to top-flight European football for Bony.
Following two years at Ivoirian outfit Issia Wazi, Sparta Prague signed him to play in their reserve side, then competing in the Czech third division. His performances persuaded them to bring him in on a permanent deal, and he repaid this vote of confidence by scoring 22 times in 59 appearances for Sparta’s senior team.
His attacking instincts attracted the interest of Vitesse, who broke the bank to bring the Côte d'Ivoire international to the GelreDome. And it was in the high-tech Arnhem-based arena that he scored the first of his many Eredivisie goals on 20 February 2011. The appointment of Rutten, who resisted the temptation to completely overhaul the squad, has enabled Bony’s scoring talents to flourish further.
Staying the course
“We’re not afraid of falling back down to Earth with a bump. Vitesse are not generally regarded as being in with a chance of winning the title, not like some of the league’s more well-known sides. But there’s nothing to fear,” said the clinical striker, who came on as a substitute during Les Eléphants’ surprise defeat at the hands of Zambia in the final of this year's CAF Africa Cup of Nations.
“We need to keep our feet on the ground, and not forget where we came from, so that we can work out where we’re going. Teams are going to be more aware of us in the second half of the season, so we need to pick up as many points as we can right now and try to stay the course,” continued the admirer of Didier Drogba.
As far as Bony is concerned, the fact that the Gelderland outfit currently share the lead of the Dutch championship with Twente is down to the stable atmosphere at the club over the summer. “There were a few new recruits, but otherwise it’s largely the same group of players. For a footballer, stability breeds confidence,” he remarked.
Bony, who will leave for preparatory training for the 2013 Cup of Nations in South Africa on 5 January, has clear ideas about how to preserve that confident outlook. “By keeping fit and healthy, and continuing to put in the work,” he said assuredly, adding without a trace of vanity, “I can keep performing at this level for a long time.”
There is no doubting the remarkable progression of the West African’s career. As part of a Côte d’Ivoire team under the tutelage of new coach Sabri Lamouchi, South Africa 2013 could provide Bony with the ideal platform to continue moving in an upwardly direction.