The son of a Nigerian boxer, Aldershot Town midfielder Emmanuel Panther has had testing times in his football career of late, and while displaying his innate focus he has also been developing another of his loves – music producing.
Emmanuel Ugochukwu Ezenwa, or Manny as he’s known, has been out of the first-team picture at the League Two club in recent months but an upside to this at least has been the additional progress he’s been able to make in the studio.
“I’ve not played the last few months so I’ve been able to get back into music,” he explains. “I’ve always been a music fan and always been into producing and when I was at Morecambe I got the opportunity to do it at the Manchester MIDI School.”
“It was a natural thing and I’ve been experiencing how to do the studio work and recently been sending some music. It’s very technical and there are a lot of different sorts of software to use and lots of maths involved.
“It takes up a lot of time but it is enjoyable. Obviously there is a lot of spare time for footballers and last season I had a bit of time, trying to get the beats together can be stressful and I do sympathise with producers.”
Glasgow-born Manny’s father is Cyril Panther, a boxer who moved to Great Britain from his native Nigeria and fought during the 60s and 70s in the light-middleweight division, his last bout coming in 1972.
Cyril has been an inspiration in numerous ways to Manny, perhaps inadvertently also influencing his producing too with the music he enjoyed playing when his son was young!
“Dad was into Bob Marley, he also liked a bit of African music which is very rhythmic with the drums and good beats. Then again he was also into Roy Orbison and Mum liked Michael Jackson and Madonna.
“Dad got my brother and me into boxing, he taught us to be tough and confident and always gave us compliments. He taught me to believe in myself and to not let anything hold you back, he was a big influence and still is today.”
The ex-St. Johnstone and Partick Thistle youngster tends to strongly favour the kind of music which is engrained with a significant message, as he details.
“I’m a deep thinker and I like r&b, also hip-hop, the type of it that gets you thinking. I like the political side and the guys who have something worthwhile to say.
“Guys like Mos Def, Nas, Lupe Fiasco, also Public Enemy and The Roots. I’m a fan of the underground stuff, but some commercial too.
“I think Lauryn Hill ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ is one of the best albums of its kind. I listened to 2Pac a lot too when I was young as my older brother used to play his music.”
The 27-year-old who first came to English football in 2005 with York City was intrigued by the conscious side of hip-hop even when buying his first record as a kid.
“It was a hip-hop album which one of my friends had and we’d listen to it and even though the tape kept jumping the lyrics blew me away. It might have been Eric B. & Rakim, I was 11 years old and I bought it with my paper round money.”
Manny was captain during part of his time with York City and scored four times in 136 games in all competitions from his midfield role for the Minstermen.
He joined Exeter City in 2008, and from there he spent time on loan with Rushden & Diamonds and Morecambe.
Also having a temporary stay at Brechin City during the latter part of his spell with Partick in 2005, Manny became an Aldershot player last summer and featured 26 times before this extended spell on the periphery at the Hampshire club.
He was among the substitutes in the recent Carling Cup win over Rochdale which has set up a Fourth Round home tie with Manchester United.
“There’s been a contract dispute that has been ongoing. There’s been ups and downs and it’s just one of those things.
“I was back in the squad recently and I’ll stay professional, if the manager (Dean Holdsworth) needs me I’ll be there. I’m open to a loan move if necessary, if I put the work in I know I’ll get the rewards.”
Manny has some additional interests outside of the game which reflect the type of music that he listens to – true relevance of subject matter.
“I’ve got a big interest in politics, the economy and global finances. I’m interested in the ways in which we can combat this financial fiasco and I try to stay one step ahead of what’s happening with it.”
His friend at Crawley Town, left-back Dean Howell, has started Revolution Foods which specialises in offering 100% natural plant-based herbs, foods and products.
“Dean helps me out with all the right things to eat, he sells nutritional products and it’s important for the body that we eat these kind of foods. We look after each other with it, he helps me with the foods and I help him with his tax returns.
“I’m in the process of setting up my own business that does tax returns for footballers.”
Followers of Manny’s Twitter will have seen he has recently begun ‘Afrowatch’ as he grows his hair until he next plays a competitive game!
“Afrowatch is going good!” he laughs. “It’s something to keep me entertained while I’m stuck in the house on Saturdays!”
“It’s until I play again and it’s getting bigger by the day, it’s getting a bit bushy I think it needs a shape-up!”
With his expertise in beat producing also growing by the day, Manny has had a chance to showcase the fruits of this labour in the Aldershot dressing room.
“It’s usually my iPod that gets played with the beats I produce. Lots of the guys request mine and I produce mixtapes and I try to keep it up-to-date with DJ mixes and versions of songs.”
When the subject of bad music taste at the club was brought up Manny was racking his brains trying to come up with the worst culprit!
“There’s a few I’m just trying to think of the worst! Jamie Young the goalkeeper, he’s into heavy metal, it’s basically just some guy screaming and it gets no airtime!”
A thoughtful kind of guy with a strong focus on his playing career while enjoying the challenges his music hobby brings him, Manny is deserving of greater recognition than just ‘the player with that great name’.
I wondered how he felt about people’s intrigue into his name, as I myself had first noticed him in this way during his Partick days.
“I’ve had people interested in it since I was a little kid. It used to bring me recognition when I was young, now it’s just normal, I got used to it.
“It’s helped me become a fans’ favourite at some of the clubs I’ve been at and they’ve made songs about it so I can’t complain!”
Some of Manny’s favourite songs:
2Pac – So Many Tears
Lauryn Hill – Tell Him
Dr. Dre Ft.Hittman, Kurupt, Nate Dogg & Six-Two – Xxplosive
Donae’o – Party Hard (“You can’t help but dance to it,” Manny says.)