Jason Mulumbi fulfilled a lifelong ambition when he made his international debut in a UEFA Nations League match with Finland in September 2020.
Perhaps a childhood dream was certainly an anti-climax, as Molumbi recalls a “horrific” occasion in a soulless stadium with no fans to watch the game.
Indeed, the player looks at those opening matches in his country’s green with a critical eye on his performance at a time when he was precarious in his nascent football career.
Expected to make a breakthrough with Brighton in the Premier League at the start of the 2020-21 season, which coincided with his debut in Ireland, the extremely energetic midfielder will eventually go out on loan to Championship team Preston, before moving to West Bromwich in the summer of 2021. .
Not only did Mullumbi have to deal with the uncertainty at the club at the time, but his arrival in the Irish national team came at a time of Covid chaos and appalling international results under a new regime bent on changing everything but the color of the national shirt.
It took 11 caps for the Waterford native to finally play in front of Irish fans at Lansdowne Road.
Twelve months after that home game against Azerbaijan, when the fans were finally allowed to return to the Aviva Stadium, Mullombi made his move to West Brom permanent, seeming to get along well with the player who seemed to be growing on his home ground. Ireland’s green shirt throughout each of his 14 matches so far.
“I’m really looking forward to the two games, for sure,” Mulumbi said at a press conference on Monday. “I’m buzzing to go now.
“We were just waiting, and the last two results were positive, so we are ready to be back again on Saturday.
“I hope I can play and contribute to the team. That’s up to the factor, obviously, but I hope I can show up in some way, shape or form.”
Mullombi has been with the new coach since the beginning of his reign, having previously played under Kenny for Ireland’s Under-21s, and despite a poor run of results, as Ireland needed 12 games to secure the victory, while they managed to score only one goal. In the first eight games, the quarterback feels that the team is starting to peak.
Positive performances against Portugal, Serbia, Belgium and Ukraine, combined with a huge 3-0 win over Scotland, certainly support the player’s claim, and the team will go into their last two Nations League games with confidence.
“We didn’t get off to a great start, I think everyone knows that,” Mulumbi said. “But we made some good changes for the Scotland and Ukraine matches. There have been a lot of positives over the past two months.
“Hopefully we can start to peak, start to have a little consistency and form now. Starting on Saturday we need to continue the way we played in the last two games.”
And while Molumbi was his biggest critic in his early days in green, he believes his club’s form and consistency have allowed him to grow as a player.
He said, “I came early and, to be honest, maybe some of my performances initially weren’t going well. I wasn’t playing at club level much.”
‘A few lads I grew up with are still there’ – Republic of Ireland midfielder and Kapuken man Jason Mullombi was thrilled at the Waterford Football Tour #FAICup semi final #NationsLeague pic.twitter.com/6WDfV5F0C4
– RTÉ Soccer (RTEsoccer) September 20 2022
“Now I feel like I’m playing at club level after week, after week I feel confident, I feel ready, I think I’m more mature now in every shape and form.
“When I first came to play for Ireland against Finland, there were no fans in Aviva.
“Since I was a kid, the goal was just to play for your country. You had a vision for Aviva full of energy and you ended up playing in ten or 11 games without fans. It was horrible.
“[When the crowd returned] It was incredible. They can get the best results from you. It’s an incredible feeling to have fans, and that gives you that extra boost as a player.
“For a player, that’s what you dream about. [Before that]It was a really strange experience.
“Personally, I didn’t feel like I played for my country without fans. It felt weird.”
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