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Teen's pain Irish star Odubeko can have a bright future despite Hammer blow at Old Trafford


West Ham's Ademipo Odubeko (right) battles for possession with Manchester United's Scott McTominay. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

West Ham's Ademipo Odubeko (right) battles for possession with Manchester United's Scott McTominay. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

West Ham's Ademipo Odubeko (right) battles for possession with Manchester United's Scott McTominay. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

On Tuesday night, West Ham’s Tallaght teenager Mipo Odubeko firmly entered the mainstream and quickly learned there can be good and bad sides to the exposure.

The 18-year-old’s 54th-minute introduction off the bench in the FA Cup tie with Manchester United provided him with a first proper chance to show what he could do at that level - an injury crisis meaning he was the only recognised front man in David Moyes’ squad.

Arriving into a game at Old Trafford is a big deal in any circumstances but the fact it was live on BBC ensured that the audience was much larger than it would be for a regular Premier League game.

As a consequence, there were a lot of eyes on his subsequent struggle to make an impression and the ignominy of being subbed off before the end of extra-time with Ian Wright expressing sympathy for how it had all passed him by.

The discussion continued on the UK airwaves afterwards.

Talksport presenter Andy Goldstein described the Moyes decision to withdraw Odubeko as "disgusting”, concluding that the episode could “ruin” the kid.

Experienced pro Charlie Austin took the alternative view, arguing that Moyes’ actions pointed to the trust he has in Odubeko.

“David Moyes must think a lot of him to take him off,” he reasoned.

“You’ve got to be a strong character to be able to take this and this’ll probably help him going forward in his career.”

Maybe the truth lies somewhere in between. Moyes didn’t say much afterwards beyond the fact that it was good for Odubeko to get more minutes under his belt.

When the game went to extra-time, his stint was longer than probably he had bargained for and people close to Odubeko feel that 58 minutes was very good experience for him, even if he would naturally have preferred to stay on in the late attempt to send the tie to penalties.

To the untrained eye, there were moments where the youngster seemed a bit ponderous and caught up in the occasion, However, it is understood that Moyes was reasonably happy with his efforts – given his inexperience.

With West Ham failing to strengthen in the strikers’ department when the transfer window was open, there should be further chances for Odubeko if he is deemed good enough. Indeed, the signs will be good if he features in the plans for Monday’s visit of Sheffield United.

It goes without saying that he would have wanted to make a better impression against Manchester United. West Ham fans had high expectations after his scoring exploits at U-23 level and the social media world lends itself to knee-jerk overreactions to a bad day.

His desire to do well went beyond that as Odubeko was previously on United’s books and there was a degree of controversy around his decision to turn down a contract offer there and move to West Ham in October 2019.

A key reason was his belief that the path to first-team football would be smoother and that point has been vindicated to a degree.

However, much will depend on his reaction to Tuesday's game.

Ireland supporters should be following things with interest, too. Odubeko starred at St Joseph’s Boys in his early teens after a spell with Crumlin United, and was in the same age group as Troy Parrott.

They were two of the top talents around but there has been more hype around Parrott which may be explained by Odubeko and his family relocating to England early to facilitate a switch to Manchester City that didn’t actually come to pass because he was too young. Their city neighbours eventually got clearance to make it happen.

In some respects, Odubeko has been out of sight and out of mind from an Irish perspective. His Nigerian heritage has also led to speculation around his intentions while pictures of his Ireland underage appearances have disappeared from his social media.

The English FA would be able to sniff around on account of residency rules but sources with a knowledge of his situation say that Ireland is the first preference and the main issue with his international career has been his omission from squads as opposed to a rejection of advances.

During his stint with United, he was keen to play in the U-17 Euros for Ireland but was denied the opportunity by club commitments. The feeling from his side is that the FAI could have done more to push for his release.

Jim Crawford has spoken of Odubeko as an option for the U-21 squad and the fears of those doubting his preferences would be answered by a call for their games in March.

With Adam Idah and Parrott expected to be in Stephen Kenny’s plans and Michael Obafemi sidelined, there is space in that department and Odubeko is a strong contender given Moyes’ decision to throw the rookie in at Old Trafford, suggesting he is held in very high regard. One tough night at his new office shouldn’t lead to a complete review of everything that brought him there.

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Online Editors