Wolves goalkeeper Carl Ikeme will be forever grateful to erstwhile Nigeria coach Sunday Oliseh for inviting him to the Super Eagles in the worst moment of his career.
The England-born, 29, was invited by German coach Berti Vogts to feature in a friendly game ahead of the Ghana 2008 Africa Cup of Nations in 2007 but Ikeme failed to honour the invite.
However, the former QPR keeper switched his international allegiance to the country of his father and played his first game for the Eagles in their Gabon 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Tanzania in Dar es Salaam on September 5, 2015.
But before then, Ikeme was warming the bench for his Championship side after losing his place to on-loan Arsenal keeper Emiliano Martinez, 23, early this season.
Wolves manager Kenny Jackett restored Ikeme to his starting XI before Christmas after Martinez suffered a thigh injury.
The Nigeria first choice went on to keep 10 clean sheets for Wolves, earning rave reviews for his efforts.
And Ikeme, who has won seven caps for Nigeria, is happy Oliseh’s invite came when he was going through a tough patch.
“The timing of the Nigeria call-up was out of the blue a little bit,” he was quoted by Birmingham Mail as saying on Tuesday.
“I wasn’t playing for Wolves at the time so it was a welcome distraction.
“I have played seven times for them so far and that has been another highlight of the season as well as getting back in at Wolves.
“Playing for Nigeria is something I love doing, in particular the atmosphere and the love you get from the fans.”
Ikeme said being dislodged by Martinez helped kept him sharp and focused.
He said, “It was a slow start for me and I got dropped from the team and didn’t play as much as I would have liked at the start of the season. I just carried on training well and working hard and came through and made over 30 appearances in the end so it didn’t work out too badly.
“I knew when I got back in I would have to keep my standards high especially after Emi was fit because he is a very good young keeper.”