Carl Ikeme: "If Nigeria did call me, I’d seriously consider it. My dad’s side of the family are all from Nigeria."
IN-FORM Wolves keeper Carl Ikeme is keeping his international options open for approaches from Nigeria or England.
The 26-year-old has been in outstanding form for his club this season.
Ikeme hails from Castle Bromwich in Birmingham but his father is Nigerian.
Six years ago he was included in
Bertie Vogts’ first provisional Super Eagles squad – a 37-man list that also included Villa’s Gabby Agbonlahor and Albion’s Peter Odemwingie, then with Lille, and former Wolves team-mate Seyi Olofinjana.
Ikeme’s career then stalled somewhat, having to play second-fiddle to Matt Murray and Wayne Hennessey, and even third-fiddle when Marcus Hahnemann was at the club, leading to a succession of short-term loan moves.
But Ikeme is now in the form of his life.
And although he may be some way off a call from Roy Hodgson, Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has very little back-up to long-standing goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama who, at the age of 30, already has 70 caps after 11 years as national No.1.
“A call up by Nigeria is the next step really, that’s the next level,” Ikeme told the Sunday Mercury. “If the call came I would be interested in it, obviously.
“I’ve not gone one way or the other. The Nigeria thing came up a few years ago and so everyone has associated me with Nigeria, but I’ve not decided on anything. It’s just a case of waiting and seeing how my career goes really. I’ll just see where I end up.
“But if Nigeria did call me, I’d seriously consider it. My dad’s side of the family are all from Nigeria. I was over there last summer. I do still see a lot of them.
“They called Gabby up with me but he was always more hopeful of England because he was playing in the Premier League. England are the stronger footballing nation.
“There are good English keepers out there – Joe Hart is unbelievable, and you’ve got Jack Butland as well at Birmingham. Ben Foster, Rob Green. There are keepers out there.
“It seems like a long way off for me at the minute. Obviously with football you never know. Things can change in an instant, but it is not something I have really thought about, I’m just concentrating on things here at Wolves. I’m always thinking about our next game, or what I’m doing at Wolves.”
Ikeme is enjoying life under Dean Saunders having played for the Welshman at Doncaster Rovers last season.
“He’s lively... very lively!”, said Ikeme.
“Things have been a bit down here and so he might be just what we need to give the place a lift.
“He goes through things... He will keep telling you until you get it! And even when you get it he will tell you again!”
Ikeme believes Wolves, who drew 1-1 with Blackburn on Friday night in Saunders’ first game, showed glimpses of their potential under Stale Solbakken, who lost his job after the FA Cup loss at Luton.
“It’s just the way it’s gone,” he said. “It has been borderline at times where we have maybe conceded in the last minute – there have been quite a few games where we have conceded late on – or games we’ve been well up in and should have won.
“There are probably six games I could name off the top of my head that we should have won and then things would have been so much different.
“The first thing for me is to win. It’s nice that people say, ‘You’re doing well’, but it doesn’t always feel that way when you’re not winning.
“When we played well (under Solbakken) we played really well. It was just finding that consistency.
“You need to be able to play badly and win in this league. You can’t always play well... and we were just inconsistent under the old manager. There’s a few results that could have gone either way and we ended up drawing or losing, with a few decisions that might not have gone our way. That’s football and you just take it on the chin.”
Ikeme is happy with comparisons to Murray, who many regard as perhaps the greatest goalkeeper in Wolves’ recent history.
“People think that we look alike, but I don’t think I look anything like him,” jokes Ikeme. “I can see why people might say it. From afar we do look similar.
“My shoulders are as wide as his, but we’ve got totally different legs. He’s got two pins and I’ve got two blocks!
“When he was playing at Wolves, he was the one I used to admire a lot – the way he used to come and take crosses. I have tried to pick up things. Comparisons will be made.
“And obviously I am happy with the comparisons. I always thought he was a top-class keeper.”
Ikeme also saves a word of praise for goalkeeper coach Pat Mountain.
“Pat’s been brilliant. We work well together.
“It’s a bit weird but the nature of the (goalkeeper) position is that you have to just worry about yourself to benefit the team. “