Max Kruse (l.) and Taiwo Awoniyi (r.) are the Bundesliga's new deadliest duo in attack for Union Berlin. - © imago images
Max Kruse (l.) and Taiwo Awoniyi (r.) are the Bundesliga's new deadliest duo in attack for Union Berlin. - © imago images
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Taiwo Awoniyi: "Any player would enjoy playing alongside Max Kruse"

Taiwo Awoniyi and Union Berlin are loving life together after the former Liverpool striker signed permanently in the Bundesliga over the summer. Now, with Max Kruse his right-hand man, the Nigerian is leading Union's charge at the start of 2021/22.

Awoniyi sits down with bundesliga.com over the international break to discuss him joining Union permanently, his and the team's goals for the season and why it's so fun playing alongside Kruse...

On his start to the season so far...

Taiwo Awoniyi: "I think for me, the goals are the work of the team, how we've been working together as a team, and that's why we're doing quite good at the moment. For us, I think the most important thing is the game against Augsburg, then after we can think about Dortmund. For us, we just have to keep on going as a team, and I believe we're going to work towards it and getting the victory again for sure."

On finally being able to sign a permanent contract at Union...

Awoniyi: "Yeah, I think when it comes to my situation it's a bit complicated to say sometimes. But I think - as a human - there are some things that where might think it's not affecting you, but I think for sure in one way or the other it might be affecting you. But now that I'm back to one place, I believe I'm more stable, more focused, it's not like I'm working towards what's happening after the summer, what's happening in the winter and stuff like this. It's not like that anymore. It's not only because of that, but I think Union is a team that suits my style of play and the coach gave me the chance that I needed, and I think this is why everything is going well."

On the Union fans...

Awoniyi: "For me, I always said Union is a family club. Not only me but all the players. I think we play for them. We fight for them because of the way they support every player, not only me. You always want to give your all, you always want to do everything for them, the way they support is incredible and the best you can do for them is just to fight whenever you have the shirt on and hopefully make them happy."

On becoming a father...

Awoniyi: "I think my wife is the one doing the most jobs! Because most of the time I'm not at home. But I think it's a good thing, it's a family thing and it's something you're happy about. It's what I'm proud of."

Watch: Awoniyi's August Goal of the Month nominee!

On his connections to Nigeria...

Awoniyi: "Every time I have the opportunity to go back, because my parents are there, my brothers and sisters, I always go back because there's no place like home like they always say."

On the Bundesliga in Nigeria...

Awoniyi: "I think Nigeria is a really great football country, with the talent we have. I think they follow every league. Nigerian players are all over the world playing in different leagues and for Nigeria, when they see their players playing somewhere, I think they follow it and they look up to the league and everything. But I think it was a good connection."

On who helped him start his career...

Awoniyi: "I will always say my greatest help is God because he made all things possible. Then when it comes to the physical world and everything, I started in my home state. I think my parents and my family, they're the first people I would always say helped me the most in my football career. Then, my coach. The coach that I started my football career with, in my hometown. Unicorn Soccer Academy, before I moved to Imperial Soccer Academy, which was owned by Seyi Olofinjana. But these are the most people. As I always say, the national team also, the people who brought me to the U17s, really helped me get the chance to play in the World Cup so I think my national team also played a role in it. But the most important people I've always said are my family, my coach in my state and the people of Imperial Soccer Academy. And when I had the chance to get to the national team in the U15s, throughout the U20s."

On growing up in Nigeria...

Awoniyi: "I always said it's difficult to go into details but it was really difficult, let me just put it that way. Football is like a lifeline for my family because it changed a lot of things. Getting the money to buy football shoes, getting the money to eat sometimes is quite difficult, but my parents were able to send everyone to school which is the most important thing to be able to do. I'm very grateful to them for it, but it was not an easy journey, to be honest."

On leaving Nigeria to develop his career...

Awoniyi: "Yeah, I've always loved to play football. I started football really quite early. I went to school also but my goal was always football, football, football. So when I had the chance to come into the national team, I realised this is something I wanted to do and when I had the chance to get signed by Liverpool, I couldn't say no. It was a dream come true for me because it has always been what I wanted - to play football all my life."

On motivating himself after a tough time at Liverpool...

Awoniyi: "Football now, to be honest, to some people, it's business. To the fans, it's the love they have for the game and to some players, it's the passion they have for it. But for me, I'm this kind of guy that when I focus on my dream, it's difficult for me to let it go. I pushed it. I'm that guy, it's just a passion for me, it's what I love doing, so every time I have the opportunity to do it I give it my all. I fight for it, I do everything for it, and that's why I said I'm always part of my journey. It's extremely, extremely difficult, but here we are today, we have the opportunity to talk about it. This is something to be proud of for me. It's just a passion for me, it's what I love doing, and I keep on motivating myself always."

Watch: Awoniyi's strike against Hoffenheim

On being a part of Union...

Awoniyi: "I think everything about the club is special. As I said, in football, there is the business part, and there is the passion part. In this club, everything goes together. This is where I want to be. I'm really happy about being here at Union Berlin because as a team, they work together as a family, they work together to succeed, to make success, not only for the business part but to make everyone happy which is the most important thing in life. I think this is something special about them. With the fans also, everyone is doing everything together, and it's something great to see in football."

On strike partner Max Kruse...

Awoniyi: "With Max Kruse, with everyone in the team, it's just a connection of a good team. It's a connection of doing everything together. For Max Kruse it's so special because he has a lot of intelligence in the game, he has a lot of experience and I think if you play with him, if it's me or any other player, you always enjoy playing with him because he knows everything you want to do on the pitch."

On his aims for the season...

Awoniyi: "I always say my target is something personal to me, which I always keep to myself. But for me, the most important thing is the team. So long as the team is winning, I'm happy."

Taiwo Awoniyi (r.) believes any player would have the same fun he is having playing Max Kruse (l.) at Union Berlin. - DFL

On a host of new signings at Union over the summer...

Awoniyi: "This is the kudos to the coaches because they're the ones doing the job off the pitch, our job is to do it on the pitch. I think they know what they want to do against every team, and this is the great work they've been doing. It helps the new players to know how we play, and how things are done. This is the reason everything is going well for now."

On how the table looks after Matchday 3...

Awoniyi: "To be honest, I'm not the guy that focuses much on the table. I'm the guy that always says to myself 'so far my team is doing well, let's keep on going' and I just love to keep it that way."

On what headline he wants to read at the end of the season...

Awoniyi: "As I said, I'm the guy that's always looking forward to the future. It's not something you can decide yourself but the most important thing you can do for yourself is to focus on yourself, now. So I think I will just keep on working on myself every day, and at the end of the season, we'll see what headlines come up."