Their interest was made public early last year but now Nigeria appear to have intensified their attempts to convince talented striker Tammy Abraham into switching allegiances to represent the Super Eagles at senior level.
After scoring 23 Championship goals last season, it was inevitable that Tammy would earn a reward for his efforts out on-loan from Chelsea. That reward is the challenge of regular Premier League football this season, with Swansea City. He’s already netted two goals and signs are promising for the future.
After all, the hot prospect will no longer be a teenager in less than a month’s time. Having impressed with England’s various youth sides, soon questions about senior caps are bound to arise.
Given England’s current situation in the attacking third, Abraham will have plenty of confidence that soon he’ll assert his own credentials. After all, continually starring at youth level only reinforces the belief that Gareth Southgate should continue to trust in youngsters and gradually increase their senior involvement over time.
Provided he’s able to maintain a consistent flow of goals and impressive displays, why not?
Having penned a new long-term deal at Cobham before leaving on another loan spell, this venture is one which has all the makings of a highly beneficial one. Playing under Paul Clement, who himself spent a few years in the Academy ranks before opting for senior management elsewhere, is evidently helpful.
Add to that, the fact that he’s settled quickly and been widely embraced by teammates as one of their most talented players, it’s clear that the environment around him is a positive one which promises to aid his development.
Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford are the only attacking duo whose spot within the side seem secure, availability permitting. Jamie Vardy (30) has flattered to deceive at international level, while questions over Jermain Defoe’s effectiveness at 34 continue to rumble. Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck both have poor injury records, so neither are reliable enough to trust long-term.
Rashford has regularly been deployed out on the flanks, so you can already start to see where Abraham fits into the picture at some stage in the future. Former club team-mate Nathaniel Chalobah, who Tammy played with during this summer’s u21 European Championships, left Chelsea in a £7m move to Watford. He has impressed upon arrival and within two months, earned his first senior call-up.
Despite not earning any competitive minutes for the Three Lions yet, it shows Nathaniel’s hard work has not gone unnoticed. His eagerness to play regularly has shown in performances on the pitch, something that Abraham himself will look to emulate.
With that in mind, why would Tammy Abraham want to make the sudden change and play for Nigeria now? He’s in a similar situation to Everton’s Ademola Lookman, while Liverpool forward Dominic Solanke and Tottenham midfielder Josh Onomah (on-loan at Aston Villa) have all been approached over the past twelve months. All of them proceeded to reject and played a significant part in England u20s World Cup victory this summer.
There are a handful of notable players within Gernot Rohr’s squad, including the likes of John Obi Mikel, Kelechi Iheanacho, Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi and Ola Aina. The latter trio have all played for England at some stage, though this only applied to youth level.
All but Aina were born in Nigeria and having made the switch recently, the fullback was called up ahead of their World Cup qualifiers earlier this month. The Hull City loanee, who has three years left on his existing deal at Chelsea, explained reasons behind a decision to represent the Super Eagles.
“Nigeria is a great country and the lure of playing for the Super Eagles was too appealing to turn down.”
There’s no guarantee that Abraham feels the same way, especially when you consider Nigeria began their approach over a year ago now. If he was keen to represent them, surely he would’ve begun rejecting the England youth call-ups and began talks with the NFF?
His father is close friends with NFF president Amaju Pinnick, who remains confident that they’ll persuade him to switch. The promise of senior international football now, rather than in a year or two, is perhaps the only appealing factor bar the aforementioned players he’d be playing alongside.
“Tammy is like a son to me. His dad is my childhood friend, we grew up in Warri and speak quite often. When we are ready, I am sure the Nigerian Football Federation will not have any problem in securing his release,” Pinnick was quoted as saying last October.
Since then, he rejected a call-up to be involved in Nigeria’s AFCON 2019 qualifiers – which they have already started with a 2-0 defeat by South Africa. It’s increasingly clear that he’s focused on England and there are definitely reasons for that. Better facilities, among more familiar surroundings at u21 level and that’s ignoring the tireless hours of commuting back-and-forth should he pledge his allegiance to Nigeria.
At such a crucial stage in the development of Tammy Abraham, you can understand why a clear plan is not yet in place. It’s important that he continues to progress with Swansea this season and anything else ultimately comes afterward.
You begin to wonder though why Tammy Abraham has not already started earning caps for Nigeria if he is indeed so keen to make the switch.