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How Chiedozie Ogbene’s forward thinking is reaping instant reward

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Chiedozie Ogbene during a Republic of Ireland training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Chiedozie Ogbene during a Republic of Ireland training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Chiedozie Ogbene during a Republic of Ireland training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

While the form of some forwards may be of concern to Stephen Kenny, Chiedozie Ogbene’s start to the season is a welcome outlier for the Ireland boss.

The 25-year-old’s switch to centre-forward at Rotherham this year has proved a masterstroke, with the former Cork City player netting five goals in his first 11 games, one more than he managed in 53 appearances last term.

His blistering start is in stark contrast to some of his international team-mates, with Preston North End’s Troy Parrott and Callum Robinson yet to score a league goal this season, and Swansea’s Michael Obafemi managing just one goal in eight.

Only Birmingham’s Scott Hogan has managed to match Ogbene’s tally, as Ireland prepare for a trip to Hampden Park to face Scotland on Saturday evening.

“I’m not a natural-born striker,” the Corkman admits.

“Obviously it’s a change of position. I’ve gone from right wing-back to a forward role for the team. The manager has trust in me because I’ve played as a winger all my life.”

Ogbene accepts playing a more advanced role with Ireland may have caught Rotherham manager Paul Warne’s attention and been a factor in the switch to centre-forward at club level.

“Since I’ve been here and played a more forward role, it’s helped him make his decision. I’m learning to be more of a focal point for the team. I really enjoy the position, going in behind and running at defenders, that’s where I want to be.”

Rotherham clinched promotion to the Championship last season, and also lifted the EFL trophy – with Ogbene scoring in the Wembley showpiece.

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He has previous experience in England’s second tier from his time at Brentford and hopes to continue his good form this term.

“It’s the drive I have,” said Ogbene.

“You always have to prove yourself. Coming into the Championship, I knew what I had to do. We’re capable of doing well. I always strive to be better, and I want to test myself in the higher leagues. I’m sure no player in the Rotherham building wants to just stay where they are.

“I want to go to the next level and when I come here, to international football, I see players that are in the Premier League, and who’ve played in it. I try to learn from them because that’s the destination I want to be in.”

Ogbene, who was born in Lagos, Nigeria before he moved to Cork aged eight, made a blistering start to his international career last year, with three goals and an assist in five appearances.

He played no part in Ireland’s 3-0 win over Scotland last June though, due to injury, before making a 10-minute cameo off the bench days later in the 1-1 draw with Ukraine.

“I try not to get too high when things are going well and try not to get too low when things are going badly,” he said.

“I had to watch Scotland from the sidelines and watch the clips to see what players like Michael Obafemi were doing differently than I would have done. We can learn from each other.

“I’m excited to go to Hampden. I think we’ll bring a good crowd, but we need to stay focused and not let that interfere with our performance. We’re going to go there, try to impose ourselves and see if we can get the result we want.”

Ogbene was linked to a move away from the New York stadium earlier in the summer, and while he insisted he was never close to signing elsewhere, he has yet to sign a new deal with the Millers.

“The club wanted to keep me. I was getting the opportunity every week and that’s where I wanted to be, playing football. There is no talk (of a new deal). The club hasn’t come to me, I have said to them I want to push for the next step. We will see how it pans out.”



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