'If the player isn't ready, we'll accept that' - Highly rated West Ham teen's absence from Ireland U21 squad explained

Jim Crawford says ‘fatigue’ led to Ademipo Odubeko’s withdrawal.

Ademipo Odubeko pictured during an Ireland U17 friendly in 2019.
Ademipo Odubeko pictured during an Ireland U17 friendly in 2019.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Updated Mar 25th 2021, 5:00 PM

THERE WERE some eyebrows raised when West Ham youngster Ademipo Odubeko withdrew from the Irish U21 squad earlier this week.

The 18-year-old Tallaght-born striker was initially called up as part of the squad to face Wales on Friday, but the FAI subsequently confirmed he had withdrawn.

“Ademipo Odubeko’s withdrawal was agreed between the Football Association of Ireland and West Ham United in the best interest of the player,” a statement read.

“He will remain with his club for the international window having only recently returned from injury and, as a result of his busy training and match schedule of late, both parties agreed that it would be beneficial for him to continue working with his club at this time.”

Yet the fact that Odubeko — who has made two senior appearances for the Hammers — was not injured led to some speculation over his international intentions as the youngster is also eligible to represent Nigeria, while England have reportedly been exploring his eligibility.

Ireland U21 boss Jim Crawford elaborated on the situation today during the pre-match press conference for the Wales game, saying: “I can only comment on what I know. I’ve been approached by a third party in West Ham football club to say that he’s been involved with the 23s, he’s played a game, then he was in the first team, an FA Youth Cup game on the Monday, fatigue has a huge part in it. If the player isn’t ready, we’ll accept that.

“He’s certainly in our plans for the June window [when Ireland will play a tournament in Spain]. We’ll see when June comes how he’s performing at West Ham. It’s not like anybody is going to be a shoe-in. They’ve got to be performing well. Hopefully, I can get over to the UK at some stage and get to see Mipo playing some 23s games, or if it’s with the first team or the FA Youth Cup, but that’s where it’s at in this point in time.”

Crawford also confirmed the absence through injury of another striker, Joshua Kayode, who is currently on the books at Rotherham and has been enjoying an encouraging loan spell at Carlisle, scoring six goals in 29 appearances for the League Two club.

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“I knew bringing him in, it was going to be touch and go. He was quite confident himself that he could make it, but unfortunately, I wouldn’t risk him and he’s not even at a level that you get a few minutes out of him, it’s still quite tender. He wants to stay, he loves being involved in the 21s, and rightly so, he’s a fantastic player and great to have around the place.”

Meanwhile, a pair of 18-year-olds, Derby defender Festy Ebosele and Everton attacker Thomas Cannon have been training with the squad in the build-up for the Wales encounter.

“We said: ‘Do you know what, let’s bring in a couple of 2002s to come in and train and have a look at them. It’s been unfortunate, with Covid, with the U19s international tournament being cancelled that I wanted with certain players to say ‘you’re on our radar,’ and Festy was one, Tom Cannon was another and I could have brought in numerous other players. We knew we were going to be short and we needed to have a couple of 11-v-11 games.

“The boys came in and filled spots. They impressed, they really did and it’s to be expected. I know Festy, he’s a really good footballer. He’s still learning, that’s for sure, and I had a decent conversation with him as well. He’s somebody that certainly throughout this campaign, can play his part, and likewise with Tom, Tom showed up well playing as a striker in the 11-v-11 game, so that’s one thing that’s come out of this camp, and those two have staked a claim for future squads.”

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