Victor Anichebe Returns To International Fold
Victor Anichebe hasn't played an international match for five years. The 28-year-old has had a stop-start career for his national side, Nigeria, which has, in part, mirrored his domestic progress.
But, with the Sunderland striker in red-hot form in the Premier League - earning successive man-of-the-match reviews and scoring three goals in his first two starts of the season coupled with some outstanding assist-play in his other showings - his country has, naturally, been alerted to his reemergence.
Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr, has included Victor Anichebe in a list of European-based players he hopes to entice into his fold for upcoming friendly matches against Ivory Coast and Senegal as he attempts to reinvigorate the African nation for a renewed tilt at World Cup qualification.
The matches would see Anichebe pitted directly against Sunderland teammate, Lamine Kone, who is a regular for Ivory Coast and potentially Papy Djilobodji, who may be knocking on the door for a Senegal call-up if he continues his improved showings in the Premier League.
Nigeria failed to qualify for the upcoming African Cup of Nations, but they are currently top of their World Cup qualification group and reports in Nigeria claim the country's Football Federation has compiled a list of potential players they may be able to call-up. The names include previously uncapped eligible 'targets' including Bournemouth's Jordan Ibe.
Some players on the 'list' have previously refused to play for Nigeria, including Ibe who has represented England at various youth levels and at Under-21. Indeed, the Bournemouth winger has previously rejected Nigeria’s advances but is said to be close to agreeing to represent the country in which his father was born.
The anonymous source said about Sunderland's striker:
Victor Anichebe's case is different because he has been a member of the Super Eagles for seven years. He has been slowed down by injuries, but now that he is back and doing well for Sunderland, Rohr wants to see him closely during the friendly games.
Anichebe made his debut for Nigeria in 2008 as a 20-year-old playing for Everton. He represented his country at the Beijing Olympics but was not selected for the 2010 World Cup or the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
Things just keep getting better and better for Victor Anichebe, the man who was without a club just three months ago.
New Sunderland Reporter For The Echo
Following the Liam Kennedy debacle - when the city's newspaper employed a reporter to cover Sunderland AFC only for his social media history to reveal a colourful range of views on the club and its supporters - the Sunderland Echo are about to unveil their latest incumbent.
And this time they've played it safe, or so it seems, by employing an actual Sunderland supporter to the role of SAFC correspondent.
Phil Smith will commence in the role after Christmas and will graduate from covering Cardiff City to take the honour of reporting on his home town club.
Smith is a product of St Aidan's School in Sunderland and has been working in Wales since January 2016. The 24-year-old has cut his journalistic teeth at the former Western Mail and Echo, now branded as WalesOnline.
What can we expect? Who knows. Smith has learnt his trade at a Trinity Mirror bedfellow of the Newcastle Evening Chronicle so we can certainly expect plenty of 'five things we learned' articles.
But, someone who should 'get' Sunderland can only be a good thing and reaction from Welsh fans appears to have been positive towards his Cardiff musings.
Staggering support, top night. Sunderland just not good enough in possession. No creativity. pic.twitter.com/rSyjVTctiE— Phil Smith (@Phil__Smith) October 26, 2016
The Echo have been well and truly in the doldrums since their last dedicated SAFC reporter, Chris Young, departed; and if Richard Mennear has headed up the best of their football stuff - some of it has been pretty paltry with hacks from Hartlepool and students from Sunderland University being used to pad out the content.
And, as you might expect - we've had a cursory browse through Phil Smith's social media history and can confirm he's a massive Sunderland fan with no trace of hidden Newcastle sympathies.
The club have ditched their premium-rate 0871 enquiries and ticket line.
The new number, 0371 911 1973, will now cost no more than a local-rate call.