Former West Ham and England striker Bobby Zamora has urged Callum Hudson-Odoi, Tariq Lamptey and Eddie Nketiah not to ‘jump the gun’ by snubbing the Three Lions’ national team set-up. Zamora was approached by Trinidad and Tobago during his own playing career but chose to wait for his chance, describing a long-awaited England debut as one of the best moments of his life.
Arsenal‘s Nketiah, Chelsea‘s Hudson-Odoi and Brighton‘s Lamptey are all believed to be weighing up a switch of international allegiance. All three are eligible to play for Ghana, who have already qualified for the 2022 World Cup. Despite strong showings at club level, neither Lamptey nor Nketiah have received senior call-ups from Gareth Southgate.
Hudson-Odoi has three caps to his name, but a 2020 FIFA rule change now allows players with no more than three international appearances to make the switch, so long as they came before their 21st birthday. Nketiah is England’s record goalscorer at Under-21 level, while Lamptey is expected to have a bright future after dazzling on the south coast.
Having been through a similar experience, Zamora, in association with SkyBet, told Express Sport: “My dad is from Trinidad and Tobago, and they actually came calling when I was at Brighton. I considered, but Peter Taylor had just come in, who had connections with England, and he said ‘listen, don’t jump just yet, you’ve got the ability and you can do this’.
All three players may be taking calculated risks in snubbing the Three Lions, given that Hudson-Odoi’s Chelsea career has stalled and Southgate has a wealth of options to choose from at right-back and up top. Lamptey’s path to the senior side looks particularly murky with the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, Reece James and Kieran Trippier all vying for the sole spot on the right side of defence.
The lure of competing at the World Cup later this year is certainly a tempting one. Having already qualified by beating Nigeria over two legs in March, Ghana will travel to Qatar to compete in Group F alongside Portugal, Uruguay and South Korea. Although the opportunity to play in international football’s most prestigious international competition may not come around often for those on the fringes, Zamora’s advice is clear.
The former Fulham, Queens Park Rangers and Brighton frontman was at Wembley this week ahead of Sunday’s Championship play-off final between Nottingham Forest and Huddersfield Town, giving fans behind-the-scenes access as part of Sky Bet’s ‘Step Up’ campaign.
“[The Step Up campaign] has given fans access to things they don’t normally see, and that’s one of the things that I love,” he added. “All the documentaries floating around at the minute, it’s all behind-the-scenes, training ground stuff, and this is Wembley. This is the home of football, and this is where fans have the chance to see what goes on at this magnificent stadium.”
Nottingham Forest went on to win the clash thanks to Levi Colwill’s own goal, sealing their return to the top-flight after a 23-year absence.