Nigeria planning to hold talks with young West Ham star
Mipo Odubeko's hesitancy in committing to Ireland stems from his long-held disappointment at missing out on the Under-17 European Championships two years ago.
Nigeria have confirmed their intention to prise the Dubliner into their fold, while England could enter the mix for the West Ham striker under residency rules, but it is the player’s beef with the FAI that is stalling his international career.
Under-21 boss Jim Crawford once again lamented Odubeko’s absence for this week’s camp in Marbella, with the first game of three looming on Sunday against Switzerland, and confirmed Stephen Kenny has taken up the issue with the player’s representative.
However, it is believed the Closeview agency – whose founder Gbolahan Adarabioya is the brother of Premier League star Tosin – had no influence in his stance.
Neither is his potential defection a factor as England nor Nigeria have made an approach – although the latter plan on doing so.
Instead, the 18-year-old remains sore at a legacy issue.
Having felt he played well enough in two warm-up matches against Finland to earn a spot at the Euro U-17 finals, he was left devastated to be culled.
That made it particularly painful was the fact that the two of Ireland’s group games were staged at Tallaght Stadium, near his original home of Jobstown.
The Boys in Green failed to make the knockout stage for the first time in three years after drawing against Greece, Czech Republic and Belgium.
Odubeko has not featured in an Ireland shirt since – making the U-21 standby list for the end of last year’s Euro campaign and then declining an invitation from Crawford for the friendly in Wales eight weeks ago.
It is not the first time that the teen has taken a principled decision.
Two years ago, he walked out on Manchester United, unconvinced his 35 goals for their U-18s would earn him promotion through the ranks.
His subsequent move to the Hammers has been vindicated, as David Moyes granted him two first-team appearances last season and is due to reward him with a bumper new contract.
Odubeko's progress has been noted by Nigeria. David Doherty, the FA’s London-based scout, insists the Super Eagles are interested in claiming his allegiance.
“I expect that we will try to arrange a meeting with Mipo soon,” he said.
“He is a talented player and really can progress his international career with the Super Eagles.
“The competition to get into the England squad is too strong while Ireland don’t qualify for many tournaments. Nigeria have reached the last three World Cups.”
Under FIFA’s latest rules, Odubeko could play at U-21 and senior levels for Ireland – including appearances in three qualifiers – and switch to Nigeria or England before he turns 21.
At this stage, though, he’s not interested in playing the system in the same fashion his club-mate Declan Rice did.
Healing deep historical wounds will be the only means of Kenny getting one of Ireland’s breakthrough stars back onside.