Ambrose Efe: Mission to Derby County

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After a successful two-year stint at Hibernian in which  he made 59 league  appearances, winning  the Scottish  Championship, Ambrose Efe is hoping to consolidate his football career with Championship side, Derby County after the 30-year-old defender left Hibs in January on a mutual agreement

Rumour was rife early in January that Sheffield Wednesday are hoping that Ambrose Efe would engineer his own release from Hibernian and move to Hillsborough and therefore land the 30-year-old ahead of rival suitors such as Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City.

And with Sheffield Wednesday currently in possession of the Championship’s second-leakiest defence, a new centre-half is thought to be among Steve Bruce’s main priorities after being appointed a manager at Hillsborough, but it was not to be as the Nigerian international over the weekend sealed a short-term deal with Derby County after successful trials.

Earlier in the month, Derby County manager, Frank Lampard was said to have been impressed by Efe in training, with the Nigerian possibly coming in on a free transfer as the former Chelsea midfielder had been keen to bring in defensive cover with only two senior centre-backs available for selection.

Lampard has delved into the free agent market and former Celtic and Hibernian defender caught his eyes and the Nigerian has been training with the Rams since then.

“I have found him very nice, very good, very friendly, so as a character I think he would be great for us anyway,” Lampard had said.

He went on to outline some of the defender’s strengths with a move seemingly moving closer.

“I watched a lot of him, I know his strengths. He is a tall defender, very committed, wants to play on the ball, and quick. It is just about making sure about his level of fitness and that both sides are happy it is going to work.”

“Efe hasn’t played a competitive match since the end of December. It was good for us to have a look at him in this way. If a deal is done, we will let everybody know. We know we needed a centre-back,” Lampard had added. “I felt we would get someone but that didn’t happen. Efe is here outside of the window and if he can come in then great.”

The 30-year-old defender left Hibernian in January on a mutual agreement to put an end to his two-year stay with the Hibs, having made 59 league appearances with the Easter Road outfit before his departure winning the 2017 Scottish Championship trophy.

“I had other offers from abroad so when my agent called me and said Derby were interested and they had put an offer to us with Lampard, I said there is no second choice. That should be the first choice because for me, I’ve known Lampard since he was at Chelsea as a player and he has been my hero and someone I’ve always enjoyed watching play football. He is a legend so when he told me about Derby and Lampard, I’ve always watched the Championship and known about the passion,” Ambrose toldRamsTV.

“Every player wants to make a mark and I want to do the best I can do to give back to the club. All I can do to make sure we are in the top six, the play-offs, or the coaches have said, automatic promotion, which is the best to put into the spirit of the players.

“We are aiming for the top two places to get the automatic ticket so once you put that in your head then it’s a challenge and it’s not impossible. In the Championship, everyone is equal to everyone. Anyone can beat anyone when you are at your best so for me, I need to work hard, train hard and adapt quickly to help the team.

“I know it’s a busy time playing every weekend and that’s the challenge I like. It’s competitive football that I like so I don’t have a problem with that. I want to prove myself and make sure to repay his trust in me and that is why I’m here.”

Lampard had previously said that strengthening the defence was crucial if they are to maintain their Championship promotion challenge. “If not then we have two regular centre-halves that have been playing fantastically well all season.”

“He brings competition at the centre-back area because we only had tworecognised centre-backs with the injuries that we’ve had this season. And he brings the experience of playing at Celtic many games, Hibernian, games internationally. So that may be a huge deciding factor in our season depending on how we go because we know we have a tough run of games and a busy fixture list,” Lampard said.

“Sometimes you never know where football will take you but for me, it’s a dream to play down in England so getting the opportunity to play here is amazing,” Ambrose said.

Ambrose is perhaps best known for his five-year stint at Celtic, where he replaced the former Owls captain Glenn Loovens and was a teammate of Gary Hooper but the Nigerian spent the best part of two years at Hibernian before engineering his own release earlier this month.

After a good performance at the junior ranks, former national team coach, Stephen Keshi invited Ambrose Efe to the Super Eagles ahead of 2013 Africa Cup of Nations and the defender did repose the trust ‘Big Boss’ had on him as he stood like a Rock in the defence en route Nigeria’s third AFCON success. Dip in form; not having enough playing time however robbed Efe of his ambition of having a part at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

After failing to pin down a regular playing time under Coach BredanRogers at Celtic and as a way of playing himself back to reckoning into the national team after being ignored in two successive 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Zambia and Algeria respectively, Ambrose Efe seek a loan deal to English second-tier side, Blackburn Rovers, but the non-issuance of work permit made him return to Celtic.

The 30-year-old had stated that he is ready to continue “working hard and training hard. It’s difficult as a player you want to play, but as you know football has its ups and downs you have good days and bad days. For me, I keep working hard and training hard, I enjoy every moment I spend on the training field.

“The manager has told me, he has seen me he knows my quality and the kind of player I am, but the most important thing for me is to start playing so when I start playing he can see me in a different way,” Ambrose was quoted by The Scotting Sun.

Ambrose started his professional career at Kaduna United in 2006 and two years later, he was loaned to Bayelsa United for the 2008–09 season but remained with Kaduna United after helping them win promotion.

He joined Israeli Premier League club FC Ashdod in June 2010 and left in 2012 to join Scottish Premier League club Celtic on a three-year contract.

Ambrose was a member of the Nigerian national under-20 football team at 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada. He later represented Nigeria U-23 and played two games at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

He was called up to Nigeria’s 23-man squad for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations playing five out of six games was named in the 2013 African Cup of Nations team of the tournament. He said winning the AFCON was his biggest achievement and one of the greatest moments of his life.

He was selected for Nigeria’s squad at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2014 FIFA World Cup.