Chiedozie Ogbene has his sights set firmly on the Premier League as he revels in his role as the Republic of Ireland’s surprise package.
The 25-year-old was playing as a wing-back for Rotherham when Ireland boss Stephen Kenny handed him a senior international debut and let him rip in an attacking role, a decision which brought three goals in his first six appearances for his country.
Nigeria-born Ogbene, who took his first steps in professional football with Cork City and Limerick before heading for England, admits he still has a lot to learn, but is not putting any limit on his ambitions.
He said: “It’s the drive I have. I’m sure no player in this building wants to just stay where they are. Everyone is pushing for the next level like every other player is, so that’s how I focus.
“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 I see players that have played in the Premier League, are in the Premier League, I try to learn from them because that’s the destination I want to be in.
“That’s just the ambition I have.”
Ogbene made his Ireland debut as a late substitute in a friendly against Hungary in June last year and scored his first senior international goal, again from the bench, in a 3-0 World Cup qualifying victory in Azerbaijan in October the same year.
In total, he has 10 caps to his name, although the last of them came as a substitute against Ukraine in June after he was left out of the team for the 3-0 victory over Scotland following a miserable start to the Republic’s Nations League campaign.
Asked how he responded to that disappointment, Ogbene replied: “I try not to get too high when things are going well and try not to get too low when things are going badly. These things are going to happen, but the people I have around me are quite good.”
Ogbene will hope for a chance to lock horns with the Scots second time around when the sides meet at Hampden Park on Saturday, when manager Kenny has a series of difficult decisions to make.
Asked if he would be afraid to drop skipper Seamus Coleman or deputy Shane Duffy, neither of whom is currently playing at club level, Kenny replied: “Would I be afraid of doing it? No. I wouldn’t be afraid of leaving anyone out. I don’t think I’d be sitting here if that was the case.
“You always have to make tough decisions. They’re two brilliant people in the group, both had tremendous careers, both Premier League players. They are out of their teams at the moment, but we’re only seven games into the season. I’m sure they’ll get opportunities to get back into the Everton and Fulham teams respectively.
“They’ve been great servants for Ireland and still have a big part to play for us going forward.”