The Belgian midfielder had dropped off the radar at Aberdeen under Derek McInnes following a move north from Scunthorpe in 2019. He was sent out on loan to Wigan at the start of 2021 and, despite having 18 months left on his contract, had given up on his chances at Pittodrie.
In fact, Ojo had all but given up on football. The 29-year-old was considering returning to his homeland and changing career – “draining the savings”, as he puts it – such was the place he found himself in.
The tables have turned spectacularly. He is now the apple of new manager Stephen Glass’ eye, back in the team and even scoring goals – a rarity for him – with his strike against Hearts on Sunday being his first for the club.
“Not only my Pittordie career,” Ojo responded when asked whether he thought it was all over at Aberdeen for him. “If I am honest, I told my missus: Let’s just go back home and we’ll see what happens.
“I was almost done with the game, if I am being really honest.
“But I just kept my head down in pre-season and did what they told me even if I didn’t like it and it worked out.
“Obviously, I like him [Glass]. I like the whole staff and just everything around the club at the moment.
“I am still happy to be an Aberdeen player.”
Ojo had prepared for the worst, though. “I had one year left [on my contract], so I would have been a good team-mate and supported the guys and try to give some knowledge and then, after the end of the season, head back home and then see. Drain the savings,” he continued. “Over the years, I have used my time wisely. I have done some things in real estate. I have done a PT course as well, so I have got options and I was ready to explore those options, but that is not the case now. I’m still a footballer.”
The change in fortunes came for Ojo when he went out on loan to Wigan and rediscovered a bit of love for the game.
“It started at Wigan with Leam Richardson [his manager at Wigan],” said Ojo. “He got my joy back in playing and we got a good result at the end of the season by staying up.
“But then coming back we did a lot of passing drills and that is stuff I like to do during the week.
“I told him [Glass] that training during a week does a lot for me even if I am not in the squad and don’t play.
“If I enjoy myself Monday to Friday, you’ll have a good guy in me and I’ll support the team mates.
“The training sessions have just been that good.”
Seemingly out of the picture at Aberdeen, Salford enquired about signing him, Ojo wasn’t keen. “It wasn’t really a difficult decision because I still had a year left. It’s a good contract and not something you just give up easily,” he explained. “Obviously, the joy has to be there and I’m not just going to extend my football career unhappily.”
The joy is there now, however, for Ojo – and both parties are benefitting. He’ll be hoping it carries on this Thursday, when Aberdeen play Qarabag for the Europa League group stages. Ojo is confident. “We have the fans at home. I think it will be a full crowd, but not even that,” he added. “I just think our football abilities will get it done.”