Nigeria national football team defender Semi Ajayi has bared his feelings about his side, West Bromwich Albion's failure to gain a promotion ticket back to the Premier League ahead of next season.
Ajayi, who has been with West Brom since 2019 after stints in the lower levels of English football, has become an iconic player at the Hawthorns. He has been in the Premier League with the team on one occasion in that time, which ended in relegation.
They have struggled to get back to the top flight since then and the latest disappointment hit home for the 29-year-old defender.
Training done! 23 players trained. Bright, Osimhen, Zaidu, Musa, Ekong, Lookman, Aribo, Iwobi, Bassey, Ajayi, Akpoguma, Omeruo, Ndidi, Iheanacho, Awoniyi, Simon, Adeleye, Sochima, Ojo, Duru, Samuel, Divine, Onyeka. #SoarSuperEagles #AFCON2023Q pic.twitter.com/VF8gwLJqRP
— 🇳🇬 Super Eagles (@NGSuperEagles) June 14, 2023
Promotion failure difficult to bear but AFCON is the new goal, says Ajayi
Semi Ajayi, who is hoping to make his 29th cap for Nigeria and probably score his first goal in the AFCON 2023 qualifiers fixtures tie against the Leone Stars of Sierra Leone, was talking to Nigeria football news radio Brila FM when he made those comments.
Ajayi, who played 22 matches and scored two goals for the Baggies in the 2022/23 season, saw his club finish in ninth place as Burnley, Sheffield United and Luton Town all won promotion back to the Premier League.
Having become a modern veteran of the Nigeria Super Eagles, he still made the squad that will take on Sierra Leone.
He is currently in camp with the team as they prepare for their crunch clash on Sunday 18 June, which will confirm their ticket to the AFCON 2023 tournament in Ivory Coast. He took time to talk to Brila FM on his season in the EFL Championship and what his new goals are, especially with regards to the Super Eagles.
“It's good to be back among the [Super Eagles] lads,” Ajayi said. “I had a few injuries that derailed my season but it's good to be back.
“Our [West Brom] goal was to gain promotion to the top-flight. But we have put that behind us and will work towards getting back to the big stage next season.”
Speaking on the upcoming clash with Sierra Leone, he said: “We don't focus on them but on ourselves.”
Super Eagles in good spirits ahead of Sierra Leona clash on Sunday 🔥🇳🇬 pic.twitter.com/NWrmKGCV7K
— POOJA!!! (@PoojaMedia) June 15, 2023
Ajayi asks Nigerians for support against Sierra Leone as Guinea-Bissau steals top spot in Group A
Semi Ajayi, who has participated in three of the four AFCON qualifiers 2023, also thanked Nigerians for their support so far and asked them to continue.
He noted that the team will face Sierra Leone with the ticket on their mind so as not to drag qualification to the last game in September. “We have to go out with the right frame of mind and listen to the coaches,” he said. “We appreciate the support of our fans and hope we can make them proud.”
Meanwhile, the stakes are now higher for Ajayi and his teammates as Guinea-Bissau have gone top of the group.
They defeated Sao Tome and Principe in their game on Thursday to book their place in the tournament as the first team from Group A to do so, while displacing the three-time AFCON champions as group leaders. Their 1 – 0 win took them to 10 points, one ahead of the Super Eagles.
Guinea-Bissau moved to the top of the group after defeating Sao Tome, 1-0.
Na why Peseiro dey shake for training today, he dey shout "No media, No media." 😄😄😄 pic.twitter.com/VLwlFtu3ee
— Adepoju Tobi Samuel 🇳🇬 (@OgaNlaMedia) June 14, 2023
A win for Nigeria will see them return to second place but they have already one-upped Peseiro's men by being the first team to qualify from the group.
The Portuguese manager knows that the game is important and has urged journalists to come back after the Sierra Leone match to make any points about his team.
This article was most recently revised and updated 4 months ago