DELE ALLI : an urban story

Bamidele  Jermaine Alli, the Spurs midfielder-cum- secondary striker, is one of the young players set (or not )to add history to World Cup 2018. Four years ago, he was in Ireland on a pre-season tour with  his former club, MK Dons and WC 2014 was just some games on tv. Currently recognised as one of the best young English players, the player is quick to admit that he’s living a dream, the  dream that he’s been working to realise, since the beginning of his  career.

Someone would say that Dele was born under a lucky star, but the truth is less fairy tale…sque. Seven Greek cities were boasting and reclaiming Homer’s birthplace,  but in Dele’s case  is not the player’s  birthtown, but his upbringing; born and raised in Milton Keynes by his mother Denise already mother of two by two different fathers, he spent his early years in a small three rooms flat with his soon to be three siblings…or was-he?

Kehinde his father,  originally from Nigeria, was studying for a Masters at De Montfort University when he met Denise at a night club; a year later Dele was born(11th April 1996) but the baby boy didn’t enjoy his father’s presence very much. Kehinde left England a week later, to the USA or back to Nigeria;  different stories and rumors, just the ones describing his father as a Nigerian prince(Yoruba tribe) and how he brought his son in his luxury mansion, where Dele was served by three servants and went to a £20K a year private school… Also that after two years(?) the arrangement ended and the child went back to his alcoholic mother; this alas is not an urban tale, for Denise was drinking and drinking so heavily that she was in danger to lose her children’ parental rights.

Rich millionaire father, poor, out of work mother, the boy was left on his own…no family life, just football in the streets because it cost $1 to train in a regular stadium(millionnaire father indeed!); Dele admitted that fortunately his good skills gave him access to the stadium, several times.

Things  got worse after his thirteenth anniversary…like many others he started to get closer and closer to his hometown gangs. It was time for the lucky star to do something about this abandoned boy.  With the social services getting closer and closer on  Denise’s family, it was agreed that she should let her son move in with the family of another Don’s employee who lived in the  better surroundings of Cosgrove.


Although never formally adopted, he lived in the family home of Alan and Sally Hickford for the rest of his time in Milton Keynes; from that moment he entered in another life; a life when family became the real thing, the life that he never knew but longed to know. Several years later, Dele’s parents accused Sally and Alan Hickford to keep their son away from them, so that they could keep the young international under their influence and got the youngster’s money. It’s true that Dele spent his first wages to buy Sally’s a new car to replace her old rundown one. It’s also true that he considers the Hickford family as his own, for they gave him something that Denise and Kehinde never did.

Since their son’s success in the football world, his parents became quite aggressive: his father came from the USA wanting to meet him and ask why he took off the name ALLI from his jersey…his mother gave interviews in several tabloids  about her love and sadness for a son who didn’t want to see her any more. Both she and her former husband went to the stadium to watch their son; it made some very nice picks to sell, no doubt about it!

Even his older sister opened a Facebook account, crying loud her love of the estranged little brother…she only wanted to see him and hug him, money was never the issue, she didnt give a damn , she wrote.

Things went uglier, when Dele’s parents started talking about trials and complaints against the Hickfords,  for they signed Dele’s football contract at MK Dons without their permission. One may suppose that it was too much to bear for the Tottenham player; his lawyers done whatever had to be done and now it’s the “great silence”; no more interviews, pictures or Facebook undying love…

And the football goes on …under the Hickford influence, Dele’s new life at MK Dons, started just as Dele-sque as one can imagine. “The thing we have to think about with Dele is he’s quite unique,” says Mike Dove, the head of the Dons youth system. “He had a tough upbringing, challenging. And those formative years were important for his resilience. They made him fear-free. Nothing worries him. He’s not being arrogant, he’s just looking to get on the pitch and be entertaining.”

He learned for himself, making mistakes and working out how to correct them. I’d watch him at our training ground and he was always trying tricks, like with his mates on the streets, the same little grin. That love of having the ball and wanting to do things with it came from those days.”

A few years later, the youngster’s rise had become a mix of technique, audacity and personality and his introduction  at the big stage with Tottenham , was as Dele-sque as one could wish; a pre-season game against Real Madrid in front of 70.000 fans at Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena, he nutmeged Luca Modric…twice!  The Croatian star didn’t appreciate very much and called Dele “little sh§t” on their way back to the changing rooms.

His début with the Three Lions was just as impressive; a wonder goal at Wembley against France and his club captain, Hugo Lloris! Love and hate as they say go together and Dele’s story has plenty of that…in any case, enough to change an Urban Story to an Urban Legend.





Categories: Biography, Premier League, World Cup 2018


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