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Ademipo Odubeko has represented Ireland at underage level.
Ademipo Odubeko has represented Ireland at underage level.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Crawford hopes 'to sit down with Mipo' after Ireland U17s revelation emerges

The West Ham striker has been linked with a switch of allegiance to Nigeria.
May 29th 2021, 1:40 PM 29,357 40

JIM CRAWFORD IS keen to focus on the players at his disposal ahead of the Irish U21 side’s upcoming friendlies against Switzerland, Australia and Denmark, but is hoping to resolve the situation with striker Ademipo Odubeko after the latest international camp finishes.

Doubts have emerged over the 18-year-old forward’s international future with Ireland, after he was absent from Crawford’s latest squad.

The manager acknowledged earlier in the week that the West Ham youngster was weighing up his options with regard to his international future, and encouraged the starlet to follow the example of fellow Tallaght native Robbie Keane and strive to attain legendary status with Ireland.

A report by John Fallon in the Irish Independent yesterday suggested Odubeko’s heart-breaking omission from the U17 Euros two years ago was the main source of his discontentment with the Irish set-up. Crawford said he was aware of this issue, but still hopes to persuade the youngster to stick with Ireland.

“I haven’t heard anything,” the U21s boss said at a press conference today. “Up to now, the situation still stands for myself. I suppose I’ll be focusing on the players that are here and we’ve got Jonathan Afolabi, JJ Kayode and Colm Whelan will be in shortly from his game [with UCD] last night.

“But when I get back and things settle down, I’ll try to pursue it again and see where we’re at.”

Asked specifically about the U17s issue, Crawford responded:  “I was aware of it and it’s just one of those things. Okay, he didn’t, according to him, have a good experience. I think if you asked anybody else who was involved in that squad, they would probably say they had a great experience, so everybody is different.

“For me, all I can say is that I’d like to sit down with Mipo when I can get over to the UK and have a chat with Mipo and see what his thoughts are, what his plans are with regards to international football and we can just put it to bed.

“As I said before, it’s an unbelievable opportunity for a young striker to get involved with the 21s. At the end of the day, we’ve a lot of talent here too — I’ve mentioned the players earlier on in the conversation — but there are other players who have been injured and missed out who are all talented players.

“But just getting back to it, I’d like to sit down with Mipo and have a chat, certainly when I get back, and see what his thoughts are and get a concrete answer.”

Crawford was also asked about the level of communication between the FAI and the player and said any talks had been primarily conducted through his agent.

“Stephen [Kenny] has contacted his agent, I spoke to his agent and basically I received, as I said before, a text message from Mipo pre-Wales [before his withdrawal] and he did say he was honoured to be selected, so I thought everything was okay.

“Then I spoke to the agent and afterwards, he just said, ‘Look, we just want to give it a little bit of time,’ because if my memory serves me correctly, we had an agreement with West Ham that he’d done too much, too soon after coming back from an injury, so we said, ‘Okay, we’ll park the Wales camp and have a chat with the agent’, and he just said, ‘Okay look, there’s still a decision to be made and we want to take our time’.

“As I said before, Mipo is entitled to make any decision and I just hope for the 21s, possibly the senior team, that he makes the right decision. Because I think in order for us to progress with the 21s, we need a competitive playing pool, so the more quality players we have and the competition is there, everybody has got to up their game, and Mipo would be part of that.”

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In addition to Ireland, Odubeko is eligible to represent England and Nigeria, and the latter’s FA are understood to be preparing a move for the player, who made two senior appearances for West Ham this season.

Asked whether he was concerned that others would follow a similar path if Odubeko proves successful, he added: “That could happen, but that’s out of our control. All we can do is to make sure that every player, no matter what their background is, every time they come into an Irish camp, they love putting on the green jersey, they love being around the place.

“That’s hugely important and that’s the responsibility of me, the coaching staff, the extended staff, to make sure that players feel Irish, they want to play for Ireland, that’s important.”

One player whose future is not in doubt, however, is John Joe Patrick Finn. The 17-year-old Getafe midfielder, also eligible to represent Spain and Cameroon, recently declared for Ireland.

He was part of the initial 26-man panel selected by Crawford for this camp, but opted to withdraw in order to focus on upcoming exams.

“I just heard about it late with regards the exams. I had that discussion with John Joe and he suggested it’s probably best that he concentrates on his exams and I fully support that. Big university exams in the background probably wasn’t ideal. But he’s exceptionally keen to come in. That’s one thing I’d put out there. He’s very keen to put on the green jersey, so what next for John Joe Finn? He’s still eligible for the U19s. So I wouldn’t mind him coming over and going through a camp with the U19s, so the U21 staff can come out and meet him and see how he’s been doing. It’s all been over the phone at the minute, so to see him up close in person would be great.”

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Paul Fennessy


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