Eddie Nketiah focuses on his own story as he aims to impress with England

By Sports Desk September 05, 2023

Eddie Nketiah insists he never felt that his chance to represent England had passed him, by even after Arsenal team-mates Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe got the jump on him on the international stage.

The 24-year-old, England’s all-time record goalscorer at Under-21 level, received his first senior call-up for the upcoming games against Ukraine and Scotland but is now ready to make his “own story” with Gareth Southgate’s side.

Nketiah made his Arsenal debut six years ago and last turned out for the Under-21s in 2021.

He has scored 34 goals in 136 games for the Gunners, starting with a memorable home debut off the bench against Norwich – scoring a brace to secure victory in an EFL Cup tie.

Despite bursting onto the scene, Nketiah’s options were limited to the lesser cup competitions and a disappointing loan spell at Leeds in the Sky Bet Championship was seen as another setback.

All the while, Saka and Smith Rowe were emerging as the next precocious academy talent off the Hale End production line – the former now a firm favourite of England boss Gareth Southgate.

Asked if he was concerned he may have missed his own international opportunity, Nketiah replied: “I’m still young.

“Everyone’s journey is different. In this day and age everyone needs to focus on their own story and their own journey, not look at anyone else’s. Our career paths have been totally different. We’ve had different opportunities at different times.

“I’ve always been someone who’s trusted in God, trust in myself, believe in the process step by step. It might not always happen exactly when you want it but if you keep putting in the work and doing the right things it will come.

“I am playing for a great club and a big club at Arsenal. These tough games will be a different and new experience but it is about doing as well as I can, showing my quality this week, and hopefully getting an opportunity to go out there and help the team.

“I think I am a much better player now than I was two or three years ago. It is really nice and I am coming in at a good time.

“I feel confident and I feel ready to continue to improve – that is the thing, I’m still young and humble enough to know I am not the finished article.

“Coming away with these players and being able to show my quality and learn from them is really good for me and (to) continue to take those steps in my career.”

Nketiah could have opted to switch allegiances, with Ghana – the birthplace of his parents – putting feelers out to attract him to play for the Black Stars.

But, once the England call came, the former Chelsea youngster knew he had made the right decision.

He added: “I think obviously both sides were always an option.

“I think naturally coming through the academy at England, you have the aspiration to play here and once the call-up was there and the offer was on the table it was really hard to turn down, something which I felt was a natural progression for myself at this stage.

“I felt now was a good time to make that step so obviously I’m really happy to be here and proud to be here. Hopefully I can go on and help the team this week and get some caps.”

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    Recalled Mustapha Bundu scored a 21st-minute winner with an angled strike after running onto a defence-splitting ball from Adam Forshaw.

    Home goalkeeper Michael Cooper made a string of stops as Leicester piled on the pressure but the hosts held on for maximum points as they moved to 16th and now sit five points clear of the bottom three.

    Dewsnip said: “We are absolutely delighted with the result. Made up but we know it’s not done yet. We still have a target and that is to stay in this league.

    “Our aim is to stay in the league. It’s been the same since day one when we started in the Championship. It’s been a great night for Plymouth Argyle Football Club.

    “We still have three more games to play and more points to play for. The players stuck to the shape we wanted and I am delighted we stuck to the game plan.

    “Mustapha’s goal was absolutely terrific. He’s got that finish in him we see every week in training. It does fly over the railings one or two times but credit to him that was a really good goal.

    “The fans from the first minute to the last were just at it. I found myself clapping with them at one point.

    “I am absolutely delighted the team recorded a 1-0 win for them.

    “We have not had a great record defending set -pieces, so we worked on it and got an unbelievable response.

    “Thankfully tonight was our night not theirs. I am sure Leicester will have theirs in the future.

    “Tomorrow I think I will be watching the scores come in, especially as 24 hours ago we weren’t sitting here with these three points.”

    Leicester boss Enzo Maresca took the positives from their second-consecutive loss as they remain level on points with second-placed Ipswich, with Leeds a point further back ahead of their games on Saturday.

    He said: “It has been a tough week with two defeats in a row that we did not expect so we are upset.

    “The only good thing is that fortunately, it is still in our hands.

    “We need to take our chances and start to win games. We have four games to go, three of them at home, with our fans behind us, so hopefully we can finish well.

    “At the end – and I have said it many times – the problem is when you don’t create chances. That is when you have to be worried and find a different solution.

    “At this moment we are struggling to score. We created chances inside the six-yard box, from outside the box and we struggle.

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    “But as I said, the positive thing is it’s still in our hands in the last four games. Now we cannot lose any more chances we have to try and win those (four) games.

    “At this moment we need all our players. For sure, when you don’t win games there is always a why?

    “I don’t see a big difference between tonight’s game and when we started the season.

    “When we lose you are always looking for the reason. The team are still competing and are still creating chances.

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    “With one chance they (Plymouth) were clinical and we had more chances and were not clinical.”

  • Championship leaders Leicester stunned by Mustapha Bundu’s winner for Plymouth Championship leaders Leicester stunned by Mustapha Bundu’s winner for Plymouth

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    Second-placed Ipswich remain level on points with the Foxes, with Leeds a point further back ahead of their games on Saturday with all three clubs currently having four matches left.

    Managerless Argyle climbed to 16th on the back of their first home win in seven, under the caretaker management team of director of football Neil Dewsnip and first-team coach Kevin Nancekivell and now sit five points clear of the bottom three.

    It only took five minutes for Leicester to test home goalkeeper Michael Cooper as Abdul Fatawu’s thumping right-footed shot – following a flowing move – forcing him into a diving save low down to his left.

    Ricardo Pereira was next to test Cooper, following a defence-splitting one-two with Wilfred Ndidi. Again it was all diving Cooper could do to parry the ball away.

    Stephy Mavididi latched on to the aerial ball and headed it back across the goal, which resulted in a goalmouth scramble and Argyle eventually clearing the ball.

    Mavididi went close with a curling 13th-minute shot after being teed up by playmaker Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall on the edge of the box. The attacking midfielder’s shot beat Cooper for pace but flew just past the post.

    Totally against the run of play, Plymouth stunned their visitors with a 21st-minute goal on the counter.

    Adam Forshaw intercepted a Leicester attack and released recalled striker Bundu with a superb, measured pass through the middle of the park.

    Bundu sprinted forward and – as he got into the penalty box – let fly with a fierce angled drive from the right that beat diving Mads Hermansen and rocketed into the far corner.

    Harry Winks fired wide from 20 yards as Argyle failed to clear their lines following another City corner with the half-hour mark approaching.

    Argyle’s next best chance fell to Bundu, after good work by Forshaw and substitute Joe Edwards, but this time the striker fired high over.

    Cooper did well to save low at his near post as Dewsbury-Hall fired across the face of goal in the 44th minute from close range.

    Cooper was again called into action early in the second half as he made another save, while Dewsbury-Hall tried his luck from 25 yards moments later.

    Central defender Dan Scarr did well to stoop and head a pacy Fatawu cross from the right away at the near post as Leicester continued to press or an equaliser.

    Fatawu’s next cross from the right – after 56 minutes – found striker Patson Daka and his deft near-post touch beat Cooper but spun past the far upright.

    Daka’s last action was firing wide when well placed at the far post after 67 minutes. He was replaced by former England international striker Jamie Vardy.

    With just over 15 minutes remaining, Wout Faes’ cross from the right was smashed towards goal by Mavididi but again, Cooper was equal to the effort.

    Cooper made an even better stop, bravely diving in to deny Vardy as the Leicester striker broke into the box, one-on-one, in the 88th minute but the hosts held on for the much-needed victory.

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    Spurs return to St James’ Park on Saturday for the first time since their 6-1 thrashing last April, which features in a recent docuseries about the north-east club.

    Episode three of the four-part series focuses on a match which proved the nadir of a sorry season for Tottenham and subsequently resulted in the appointment of Postecoglou in June.

    This documentary about Newcastle is the latest in a collection of sports series by Amazon Prime, which includes Spurs’ 2019-20 campaign where then-manager Jose Mourinho predictably proved a TV star, but the current coach in the hotseat has no such burning desire.

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    “I’ve probably watched… I watched Sunderland ‘Til I Die, it was good.

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    “Look, who am I to say? I’m no movie critic. Maybe people like them, but not for me. I love documentaries, but nah.”

    The Newcastle documentary is not the only footage Postecoglou has no interest in viewing.

    He has also declined to watch back Tottenham’s five-goal humbling away to Eddie Howe’s team last season, which resulted in Spurs dismissing Cristian Stellini after he had stepped up on an interim basis to replace Antonio Conte, who left a month earlier.

    Postecoglou added: “I might have watched individual players in that game but I wouldn’t have watched the game as a reference point because it’s totally different.

    “It’s a different set of circumstances, different manager. I’m really reticent to judge and try to figure out what someone else thinks because I’m not in their shoes on a daily basis.

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    Spurs travel to Newcastle in pole position to claim Champions League football after they leapfrogged Aston Villa last weekend to take control of the battle for fourth.

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