On Thursday afternoon, as many predicted, England manager Gareth Southgate named the Chelsea duo of Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori in the England squad set to face Czech Republic and Bulgaria later this month. It was nothing more than the pair deserved.
Both players have had a terrific opening couple of months to the season, despite slow starts. Abraham had an unlucky day at Old Trafford in the season opener that the Blues scandalously lost 4-0 and then followed it up by missing a penalty in the UEFA Super Cup tie against Liverpool, an incident that made even his own club’s fans turn on him.
But once he got the monkey off his back versus Norwich, the 22-year-old has been unstoppable since, smashing in another seven goals the last of which was the opener in a 2-1 win at Lille in the Champions League.
As for Fikayo Tomori, the heavenly stars have obviously come together in perfect rhythm to ensure his progression.
The young defender was close to making another loan move to Derby in the summer when Frank Lampard intervened and promised him more playing time this term in the senior squad. Rudiger’s unfortunate injury and the inability of Christensen and Zouma to form an impregnable wall gave Tomori his chance in the Blues’ first eleven. A chance the youngster grabbed with both hands, scoring a wonder goal, even, in that spectacular 5-2 win over Wolves at the Molineux. He has not faltered since.
On the back of their impressive performances so far, both Tomori and Abraham will form the bedrock of a fine Chelsea team for now and the future. It is only normal that Nigeria and England (even Canada, in the case of Tomori) would cast admiring glances at the duo to have them play for them. It is just sad that both have decided for the Three Lions and not the Super Eagles.
Honestly, they both would have made the Super Eagles a lot stronger than the team presently is. A double strike force of Abraham and Osimhen – power, pace, purpose aplenty – would drive tangible fear into any centre defense pairing in the world. And a defensive partnership of Omeruo and Tomori would have solved Nigeria’s problem on that front for another ten years or so.
But Nigeria have one of the highest number of talented players in the world and the exit of one only announces the arrival of ten others.
And as the Super Eagles coaches close the chapter on the pursuit of the Chelsea duo, more attention can be spared on the talented players enjoying their breakthrough season all over Europe and, crucially, who are immensely proud to put on the green-and-white jersey.
Emmanuel Dennis silenced the Santiago Bernabeu with a fantastic brace against Real Madrid, the day before Abraham managed a strike at Lille.
Peter Olayinka nearly confined Inter Milan to a rare home defeat after conjuring up a moment of magic to hand Slavia Prague the lead at the San Siro on Match Day 1.
And there’s David Okereke also at Club Brugge who has made the step up to the Belgium Jupiler Lig from the lower division in Italy seamlessly.
Not forgetting Sheyi Ojo, currently on loan at Rangers from Liverpool, whose goals and assists record have been fantastic in the Scottish league and the Europa League.
With Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori, the Super Eagles’ future looked beautiful. Without them, it still looks great and gorgeous. Something lost, nothing broken.
A team that survived the retirement of Austin Okocha and Nwankwo Kanu can survive anything. This is Nigeria. We don’t beg. And like that Arsenal legend, Kanu, put it:
“I feel we don’t need to force people to play for the country, because Nigeria is bigger than any player.
“We have quality players everywhere so we can’t continue to beg one player to play for us. Nigeria cannot beg, players have to beg Nigeria.
“The best way to always go about this is talking to them to play for their fatherland.
“If they do, it’s good for us and if they don’t we move on. That’s football and I think we have enough and we can win matches without them.”
Away from the immediate disappointment following the pair’s choices, we can only wish them well.
As well as David Alaba with Austria and not Gabriel Agbonlahor with England.
As well as Emmanuel Olisadebe with Poland and not John Fashanu with England.
As well as Dele Alli with England and not Sidney Sam with Germany.
I equally wish the Super Eagles well.
However, more than mere wishes I’m convinced that the Nigeria national team will be great. We’ve got Victor Osimhen who is a goal machine. There is Paul Onuachu who is a proven goal-getter. And Kelechi Iheanacho who only needs time and chance to get back to his best. While also according due respect to the talents of Samuel Chukwueze, Samuel Kalu and Moses Simon.
It is certainly not a time to be sad but a moment to relax and savour the golden generation being birthed right before our eyes. As we offer our goodbyes to Kevin Oghenetega Tamaraebi Bakumo-Abraham and Oluwafikayomi Oluwadamilola “Fikayo” Tomori, let us remember that this is the best time to play for the Super Eagles and it may just be the finest hour to be a Super Eagles fan.