West Ham’s Obinna makes case for starting place

Hammers striker Victor Obinna thumped a hat-trick against Nottingham Forest to remind manager Avram Grant of just what he is made of.

ROBBIE KEANE and Demba Ba may have arrived at West Ham, but on Sunday afternoon, Nigerian striker Victor Obinna announced his intention to keep hold of a place in the Hammers starting line-up with a stunning hat-trick against Nottingham Forest.

The 23-year-old, who is on a season-long loan from Inter Milan, missed out on a place in the Carling Cup semi-final at Birmingham after being sent off in the first leg, but he hit back in style in the FA Cup and now he feels that he deserves that starting spot.

“I think I’ve proved myself to West Ham,” said Obinna, who already has 32 caps and 11 goals for his country. “I’ve not been able to score as many goals as everyone wants, but I believe I’ve proved myself to West Ham.

“I have to give more, because there are so many challenges right now. We have about six strikers at the moment, but the most important thing is not about competition. It’s about being together, that’s what I believe. We’ll be together definitely. The sky will be our limit together.”

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Carlton Cole, Freddie Piquionne, Obinna, Ba, Keane and even Frank Nouble and Benni McCarthy are vying for the attacking roles and the African striker insists that he wants to be playing as many games as he can.

“No-one will be happy if he plays on the bench, no-one” he emphasised. “I left Inter Milan to come here to play. I didn’t leave Inter to come and sit on the bench.

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“But I have to respect the decision of the manager, because he’s in charge. Any time I’m called on to play, I will definitely give my best and I will make sure I work hard in training to prove to the manager that I deserve to play.”

Obinna certainly made a case against Forest. His exuberance is a vital part of his game and as any West Ham fan knows, he is not afraid to shoot.

The turning point of the match came on 42 minutes when Obinna’s effort from the right hand side sailed over keeper Lee Camp and into the far corner to make it 2-2. So did he mean it? Even he is not absolutely sure.

“To tell the truth, this is the 10th time I’ve been asked about that,” said Obinna after the match. “It was a shot and I’m happy it went through. I thought he was thinking I was going to cross the ball.”

In his next sentence, the Nigerian changed tack though: “It was mixed, let’s say a cross, a shot and it was in, so I was lucky about that.”

That is as clear as mud then, but one thing that is more transparent is the player’s sorrow at what happened in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final, when he was sent off for kicking out at Seb Larsson.

“I was very mad with myself after the game, because I knew it was a very stupid act, so I really apologise to the fans for that,” he said.

“The guy has kicked me several times and the referee spoke with him, but he kept doing it. There was an incident that happened before I reacted, which they didn’t show - they only showed the one I did.

“But it’s part of football and like I said, I accept the full responsibility of what I did and I’m really sorry for that act and I know it definitely won’t happen again.”

He can’t afford to. Another suspension and with all the new competition, he may find it very difficult to get his place back. Besides, he feels that he is really hitting his stride.

“I know definitely that I’ve been working really hard,” he said. “I’m trying to give my maximum to the squad in terms of assists and defending, but I believe this is the time to start scoring.

“I’m really, really happy and excited to be able to score, not only scoring, but scoring three goals as well and winning the game. I think it is going to give me more confidence to score goals.”

West Ham fans certainly hope that too. Four of his five goals so far have come in cup competitions, so hopefully he can match that form when Birmingham City come visiting once again on Sunday in the league.

Obinna has something to prove.

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