Chiedozie Ogbene firmly aimed at Major league as he revels in his surprise role for the Republic of Ireland.
The 25-year-old played full-back for Rotherham when he was Ireland manager Stephen Kenny gave him his senior debut and allowed him to play in attack, a decision that earned him three goals in his first six caps for his country.
Nigerian-born Ogbene, who took his first steps in professional football with Cork City and Limerick before heading to England, admits he still has a lot to learn, but isn’t limiting his ambitions.
He said, “I have a drive. I’m sure no player in this building wants to just stay where they are. Everyone is looking to get to the next level, just like every other player, so that’s what I focus on.
“I want to go to the next level and when I come here … This is the highest level, international football, so when I come here and see players who have played in the Premier League, playing in the Premier League , I try to learn from them because I want to be in that place.
“It’s just ambition I have.”
Ogbene made his Ireland debut as a substitute in a friendly against Hungary last June and scored his first international goal, again from the bench, in a 3-0 World Cup qualifier win in Azerbaijan in October of that year.
He has 10 caps in total, although the last came as a substitute against Ukraine in June, after he was left out of the squad for the 3-0 win over Scotland following a poor start to the Republican Nations League. .
When asked how he reacted to this disappointment, Ogbene said: “I try not to get too high when things are going well and not to get too low when things are going bad. Things like that are going to happen, but the people around me are pretty good.”
Ogbene will be hoping for a chance to face the Scots for a second time when the sides meet at Hampden Park on Saturday, with manager Kenny facing a number of difficult decisions.
Asked if he would be afraid to drop captain Seamus Coleman or deputy Shane Duffy, neither of whom are currently playing at club level, Kenny said: “Would I be afraid to do that?” No, I wouldn’t be afraid to leave anyone. I don’t think I’d be sitting here if that were the case.
“You always have to make difficult decisions. They are two brilliant people in the group, both have had tremendous careers, both Premier League players. They’re not in their teams at the moment, but we’re only seven games into the season. I’m sure they’ll have the chance to get back into the Everton and Fulham teams respectively.
“They have been great servants of Ireland and still have a great role to play for us in the future.”