It has been nearly a year since Noel Mbo made a big statement by heading to Sweden on trial and securing a deal at a top flight club.
The forward was a hot prospect at Gillingham at the time and the Gills faithful had high hopes for their youngster who was born in the Congo.
I actually broke the news of Mbo’s trial at Helsingborg much to the dismay of the Gillingham fans, who did not want their young star to leave but in turn, that was the best compliment they could pay him. He had played just three first team games at the time for the Gills, scoring once, but the club’s fans were already enamoured with him.
After impressing on trial, he joined Helsingborg on a three-year deal, linking up with another export from the UK, Kundai Benyu who joined the club on loan from Celtic.
He managed to force his way into the first team early on, making his league debut in April 2019 as a substitute. He remained in the mix, regularly making the bench for league matches.
After the summer break, Helsingborg agreed a deal with Eskilsminne to allow the third-tier club to take the forward on loan for the rest of the season. He made an instant impact, scoring in his first two games for the club and helping propel them up the league.
Mbo finished his spell with four goals in 10 games, his first taste of regular senior football had been a success.
He’s now back at Helsingborg and in pre-season training with the club who are now managed by former Aston Villa defender Olof Mellberg. Now 20, Mbo is determined to take his chance when it comes this season.
English Players Abroad: How did the move to Helsingborg come about and what made you make the move to Sweden?
Noel Mbo: The move to Helsingborgs, I always had an idea of playing abroad, to not limit anything and to always think outside the box. We see foreign players come to England and do big things so why can’t we do the same and accomplish great stuff elsewhere. So when my agent approached me with this idea of moving to a Swedish top-flight team, I felt like it was the right move for me and I still do think that. I could’ve stayed at Gillingham, had a contract on the table but it was a time for a change.
EPA: What was the standard like in training with one of the biggest teams in Sweden, was it a step up from what you were used to?
NM: The quality is up there, when you play for the biggest team over here everyone has to step up and you also have to be in your A game. Yea it was step up for sure.
EPA: How did you find moving to Sweden, was it easy to settle in?
NM: Oh my first year here was enjoyable – didn’t find it hard settling in – but what made it easier was linking up with my boy Kundai Benyu. [Having] two English boys in the same club you know vibes will always be there!. But yeah, everyone was friendly so it wasn’t hard to settle in.
EPA: You had a successful loan spell at Eskilsminne last year, do you think it was a worthwhile experience and what did you think of the level of play in the third-tier?
NM: On a personal note I do believe it was a worthwhile experience, because I believe in life to move forward sometimes you need to take a step back so you can have a clear vision of where you want to go and also to work on your crafts. I went down there to save and hopefully help the team from not getting relegated and I’m glad I was able to help with my goals and other things, Also it helped me find myself.
The level is not as easy as it looks but you make it look easy when the players are all working hard together.
EPA: Finally, are you hoping to make a big impact in the Allsvenskan this year? Are you looking forward to working with Olof Mellberg?
NM: Another season another chance . I am hoping to make a big impact in this league, I didn’t come here on a vacation. I came here to work so that’s what I’ll do work hard in training and also in games. Keep myself fit and ready until called upon and when I get that I will take it.
I am looking forward to working with the new gaffer, didn’t get a chance last year but I’m sure I will this year, we have a completely different team this time, a lot of young players so I am exciting for this new campaign.
Thanks to Noel for answering my questions, you can follow him on Instagram @noelmbo.