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Highly-rated West Ham teenager's Ireland international future uncertain

Ademipo Odubeko, who is also eligible for Nigeria and England, has already appeared for the Hammers’ senior team.

Ademipo Odubeko pictured playing for Ireland U17s in 2019.
Ademipo Odubeko pictured playing for Ireland U17s in 2019.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

JIM CRAWFORD HAS admitted the international future of Ireland underage striker Ademipo Odubeko is uncertain.

The 18-year-old Dublin-born player is considered to be a player of significant potential, having already appeared twice for West Ham in the FA Cup this season.

The Hammers starlet has represented Ireland at U17 level, but he is also eligible to play for England and Nigeria.

Odubeko was originally called into the Ireland U21 squad for their friendly against Wales in March, but pulled out, with “fatigue” cited as the reason for his absence.

However, doubts about his intentions have emerged, after Odubeko was absent from the latest Ireland U21 squad, and Crawford acknowledged the player’s future was uncertain.

“It’s a little bit stale at the minute, if you ask me,” the Ireland U21 boss said. “You know, Stephen [Kenny] has been in touch with the agent, I’ve been in touch with the agent and at the minute, what I’ve heard, they will be sitting around the table today discussing what are the next steps for Mipo.

“At the end of the day Mipo is a young lad, he’s still eligible to play with the U19s. Whatever decision is made, I just hope it’s the right decision for Mipo because he’s a good fella and if I was to say anything, you only have to look at another former Irish international that came from Tallaght that made an unbelievable career.

“I think Robbie Keane made his debut when he was 17, came, scored goals and that’s something, if I was Mipo, I’d be aspiring to.

“At this point, you’ve got a manager with the senior team who’s willing to play young players. I think it’s something for him to think about.

“I got a text off him at the last camp, that he was honoured to be selected for the camp against Wales so there’s certainly something there, that he wants to play for Ireland. But, at the minute, he’s a young boy and obviously might need time to make his decision.

“Some players like Ryan Johansson jump all over it and go ‘yeah, I can’t wait’. Others need time. He is a player who’s got unbelievable pace, can score goals and would be an asset to any squad, so we’ll just see what happens in the near future.”

Asked if he was aware of any concrete interest from England or Nigeria in the player, Crawford responded: “I asked, but no, that wasn’t given to me, I just don’t know where it sits. I just hope that the decision is the best for Mipo.”

And on whether he was concerned about the agent’s role in the player’s thinking, Crawford replied: “Sometimes an agent does make great decisions for players, I can’t really answer that. I just hope that, whatever decision is made, it’s the right decision for Mipo and, as I said, he is a talent, he’s played and scored goals with West Ham’s 23s and the 18s. Okay, he’s been on the bench with the first team for quite a number of games, but I think if he comes with the 21s and scores goals, I wouldn’t say he’d be here that long, because everybody knows that a goalscorer will certainly jump into the senior team [more quickly] than anybody else.”

Another striker who could potentially line out for Ireland is Man City youngster Liam Delap — son of former Stoke and Ireland player Rory.

The 18-year-old has been a regular for England at underage level in recent years, but is eligible to play for Ireland, with his grandfather and three great uncles hailing from Donegal.

The Winchester-born forward has made three senior appearances for Man City this season, including one in the Premier League.

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Crawford says the door remains open for Delap if he wishes to switch international allegiance, though he is unaware of any recent talks taking place on that matter.

“There were initial talks a while back, I was in touch with Liam, but he opted for England’s U18s. I certainly wouldn’t be closing the door on it, it’s something that myself, the staff, Stephen [Kenny] and his staff have to sit around a table and say: ‘Okay, what are we going to do about this situation?’

“He’s another player that would add value to the players’ pool and that’s what we need, a competitive player pool to push competition and competitiveness among ourselves, to get the best out of everybody.

“The way I’d see it from my end of things, he hasn’t played a competitive game with England, so why not make contact? His family are from around the Donegal area, I did have a discussion with him about it and it was something that he considered, but England jumped in and he made that decision. I texted him all the best. For me, if there’s an opportunity to get someone with high potential on board, why not? I’d be on the front foot with getting people on board.”

Delap is not the only son of a former Ireland international who could potentially line out for the Boys in Green.

Stephen Ireland’s son Joshua, who has also represented England at underage level, was part of a UK-based Ireland U19s training camp last week, with Crawford watching on.

“He did very well. I was part of the extended staff on that trip and of course, at the end of the trip you’d have a long debrief on certain players. He was one of many that certainly stood out for me with potential at this stage. It will be interesting to see where he goes from now, but you can tell he’s got an eye for a pass and he’s another one who plays in that 10 position.

“His passing range was very good. It’s one of them, I’m not going to lie, that you are told ‘that’s Stephen Ireland’s son,’ [and you think] ‘I’ll have a look at what he’s about.’ He was very good. Very good.”

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Paul Fennessy

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