NIGERIAN BIRMINGHAM STAR, SOLOMON-OTABOR, EYES SUPER EAGLES CALL UP OVER THREE LIONS

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Nigerian forward Viv Solomon-Otabor has turned down a chance to represent for England for Super Eagles in the nearest future.

The 22-year-old London born was called up for England’s U21 2019 UEFA European Championship qualifiers against Andorra and Scotland which they won 7-0 and 2-0 respectively but the Birmingham City winger has reportedly declined Aidy Boothroyd’s call-up.

Solomon-Otabor who has been Amaju Pinnick led Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) target alongside Everton’s starlet, Ademola Lookman, has explained that his love for the Super Eagles of Nigeria and he his hoping for a chance to put on the green and white jersey, according to Complete Sports .

“Now I’m 22 I feel like I’ve got a lot experience with over 80 league appearances under my belt and if I get into the Super Eagles team I can do well. I’ve matured physically and I’m more powerful now than where I was before. So a chance is all I need to prove myself. I hope for an opportunity to show the manager and his staff what I can do,” the youngster anticipated confidently.

Solomon-Otabor had already trained with the Nigeria U23s  and was in line to make his long-awaited debut for the Samson Siasia-led side in November/December 2015 but the Africa U23 Cup of Nations fell outside Fifa’s international match calendar.

“It was rather unfortunate I could not make the team because the games didn’t fall on the FIFA’s international match calendar. But I hope I get the chance to prove my worth like Moses, Iwobi and Semi Ajayi are now doing,” he added.

Otabor has scored once in seven appearances for Birmingham City but the youngster alongside with Liverpool forward Sheyi Ojo are expected to be called up for the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations tournament in 2019.

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Viv Efosa Solomon-Otabor was born 2 January 1996 in London to parents originally from Edo State, Nigeria. He is the nephew of former Nigerian international footballer Thompson Oliha, and his father, Victor-Banks Otabor, played domestically for Bendel Insurance, NNPC and Eagle Cement football clubs.

Solomon-Otabor attended Bishop Thomas Grant School, Streatham, and supported Manchester United as a boy and as a youngster, played football with Hampton & Richmond Borough and was also enrolled as member of Crystal Palace’s academy, before taking up a scholarship with Birmingham City in July 2012.

In February 2014, he joined Conference North club Oxford City on a youth loan until the end of the season and played 12 league matches, 7 as a member of the starting eleven, scoring once, in a 2–0 win away to Gloucester City, as Oxford City finished 20th.

Solomon-Otabor, whose strengths have been described glowing as speed, dribbling, and ability to play with both feet, signed his first professional contract with Birmingham City, of one year with the option of a second, in June 2014 and was a regular in the development squad over the season, as well as a member of the team that won the Birmingham Senior Cup that year.

His under-21 coach, Richard Beale, believed the player had the potential to progress to the first team but needed to work harder at the defensive aspects of the game and this encouraging recommendation convinced Birmingham City to take up the option for the further one year on his contract where he rewarded the trust in his abilities with enough progress and impressive performances in pre-season and into the start of the 2015–16 season, thus prompting the manager Gary Rowett’s decision to keep him at the club instead of allowing him out on loan again.

Describing his physical development and his improved defensive work, Rowett rated him as “probably the quickest player we have got in the squad”, and remarked that the young Nigerian starlet “roasted first team defenders in training”. Solomon-Otabor was then given a squad number “with a view to participation in” the second-round League Cup tie at home to Gillingham on 25 August 2015. He did indeed participate, as a second-half substitute, replacing Koby Arthur after 77 minutes and Birmingham won the game by 2–0. He made his Football League debut on 15 September at home to Nottingham Forest, replacing David Cotterill for the last ten minutes of what proved to be Birmingham’s first defeat of the season.

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However, there was no stopping the rise of the young winger, who grabbed his first team chance firmly with both hands,  and on 7 November, with Birmingham leading 3–2 ahead away at Fulham, Solomon-Otabor came on as an 80th-minute substitute for Jon Toral. Deep into stoppage time, he scored his first senior professional goal, a solo effort that completed a 5–2 win: after a run down the left. The goal was described excitingly as: “a neat turn that left Richard Stearman on his backside, was followed by a clinical finish”.

Thus it was that after twelve substitute appearances in all competitions, Solomon-Otabor made his first start on 28 December, replacing the rested Demarai Gray for the visit of MK Dons. The Milton Keynes Citizen Newspaper reported that Dons were lucky not to concede a penalty when a defender appeared to handle Solomon-Otabor’s 36th-minute cross. Rowett “thought Viv looked a little bit nervous, which is understandable, but he’s worked hard in the second-half and contributed to some of the moments and certainly the performance. … Every time he comes on the pitch, he does what we ask him to do; he stays wide, he crosses the ball, he gets into good positions”.

Solomon-Otabor remained in the starting eleven for the next match, at home to Brentford, with Gray about to complete his transfer to Leicester City of the Premier League and a few days later signed a three-and-a-half-year contract, due to expire at the end of this 2018–19 season. His performances, both as starts and substitute appearances over the season, where impressive enough to earn him the club’s Young Player of the Season award for 2015–16.

He then joined League One former club of the mercurial Austin Jay Jat Okocha, Bolton Wanderers on 31 January 2017 on loan, after a lukewarm 2016–17, until the end of the season, with the expectation of new Birmingham manager Gianfranco Zola who hoped he would be able to progress a conversion from winger to striker.

In late July 2017, Solomon-Otabor signed for Blackpool, newly promoted to League One, on loan until 6 January 2018 and made his debut as a second-half substitute in the opening fixture of the season, putting in what the Blackpool Gazette Newspaper called a “lively” performance in the next match, the EFL Cup defeat away to Wigan Athletic. He then played regularly through the first half of the campaign, and his loan was extended to the end of the season as he went on to make 47 appearances (44 in League One) in which he scored five goals.

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Solomon-Otabor’s International preference for Nigeria dates as far back as June 2015, when he was invited to attend the trials for Nigeria’s Olympic team and trained with the team ahead of their 2015 All-Africa Games campaign.

 

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