Rotherham United v Derby County - International recognition delights Millers’ Semi Ajayi

Rotherham United's Richard Wood (left) celebrates with team-mates Rotherham United's Semi Ajayi (right) and Rotherham United's Joe Mattock celebrate promotion vioa the play-offs at Wembley Stadium. Picture: Nigel French/PA
Rotherham United's Richard Wood (left) celebrates with team-mates Rotherham United's Semi Ajayi (right) and Rotherham United's Joe Mattock celebrate promotion vioa the play-offs at Wembley Stadium. Picture: Nigel French/PA
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LIFE is certainly good for Semi Ajayi these days – with the Rotherham United defender aiming to seal a dream week in fitting fashion this afternoon.

The centre-half, 24, who has also shown his proficiency as a holding midfielder already this season, made his senior debut for Nigeria in their 3-0 African Cup of Nations qualifying win in the Seychelles last Saturday.

He followed up with his second cap in a 2-1 victory in an exhibition match against Liberia, whose side included president and former world player of the year George Weah, who lined up at the ripe old age of 51 – with the friendly arranged to retire his No 14 shirt.

Now it is back to the bread and butter of league business for Ajayi, who will also be mindful of the need to continue his eye-catching start to the season to retain his international place.

Ajayi said: “I was over the moon and it was always a goal of mine to represent my country, so when I got the call-up, I was buzzing and I told my family. It was a really big day for everybody.

“After promotion last season, getting into the reckoning with my national team was always my target. I am really grateful it has happened so early in the season.

Leeds United's Samu Saiz skips past the challenge of Rotherham United's Semi Ajayi during the recent Championship clash at Elland Road. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA

Leeds United's Samu Saiz skips past the challenge of Rotherham United's Semi Ajayi during the recent Championship clash at Elland Road. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA

“They were watching me at the end of the last season and the beginning of this season and they have liked what they have seen and I am really pleased about that.

“I now need to keep working hard and pushing on.”

While being the first to admit that featuring in his accustomed position of centre-back is his preference, the former Arsenal player believes that adding another string to his bow in midfield can only prove beneficial to his career and further international hopes too.

He added: “If you can cover more positions, you can give the manager more options and learning how to play in midfield more is something I am willing to do.

After promotion last season, getting into the reckoning with my national team was always my target. I am really grateful it has happened so early in the season.

Semi Ajayi

“I still definitely see myself as a centre-back; I have played there since I was 15.

“But I enjoy playing in midfield too and wherever I am asked to play, I am happy.”