Bolton Wanderers forward Amadou Bakayoko has been rewarded with his recent form in front of goal with a call-up for Sierra Leone and has explained why he feels now is the right time to head on to the international stage.
The Wanderers attacker has plundered 10 goals so far this season and is the club’s second top scorer behind Dapo Afolayan.
He scored five goals in February which prompted him to be nominated for the League One player of the month and winning the PFA fans’ player of the month award.
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After the weekend’s clash against Crewe Alexandra, Bakayoko will link up with the Sierra Leone squad in Turkey for three friendlies against Toho, Liberia and Congo.
Bakayoko was born in Sierra Leone but most of his family is from nearby Guinea and he has had to have discussions with them in the past before making a decision.
The former Walsall and Coventry City man has previously turned down call-ups in the past when he was younger as he did not feel the time was right due to not playing regularly at club level.
But he is now looking to bring back what he picks up on international duty back to Wanderers and help his club career.
He said: “It has been a long time coming but I am grateful.
“I am a little bit surprised it happened now but the main thing is that the work I have been doing on the pitch has been recognised. It is a good message and it is great to be called up.
“I am heading over to Turkey for a couple of games. It will be good to get a feel of international football and see what that is about.
“Hopefully it can improve me in different ways.
“I was born in Sierra Leone and my family is mainly Guinean, which is just next door. I could have played for both, really, and I had to sit down with the family and make that choice. Being called up, it was the right time to make it.”
“I have international call-ups a couple of times but I have turned them down because I didn’t feel ready at the time. But I feel right now, the place I am at, the age I am at, this is a good time to go and get the best out of myself.
“I could have played for two or three different countries but I wasn’t playing regularly for my club at the time so I didn’t feel I was ready to step up to international level when I couldn’t get into the team at club level.
“The gaffer here is delighted I am doing it. It is a real positive for the performances we have had, they all want to push us on to something great.
“Family is important to me and it’s something I always need to communicate with them. At the time my brother or my dad or my mum weren’t feeling it was right and I myself weren’t feeling it was right importantly, but this time around I think I’m at a good stage, a good age and I feel like I can hopefully bring a lot out of the international just as much as a club.
“It was good going back home getting that feeling again, but hopefully I’ll get to learn a lot more things out there and bring it over to the club or do vice versa.
“I think winning things like this (fans’ award) it just gives you a good boost. I think this is my first personal trophy that I’ve had and it’s one of them where you just want to carry on and get more. I’m at the stage where I’m hungry for a lot more.”
Wanderers sit 11th in the table and are 11 points from the play-offs with eight matches of their campaign left to go.
Reaching the top six may now seem like an outside chance but while it is still mathematically possible, Bakayoko wants Bolton to finish the season strongly.
Next up is a trip to Crewe Alexandra tomorrow to take on League One’s bottom side and Bakayoko believes it is an encounter Wanderers must dominate in a bid to pick up three points as part of a strong finish to the campaign.
He said: “We have to finish strong, that is the key. It is definitely not over and it is up to us to make sure we go and perform right, do our bit.
“Everyone will just look at where you end up and make their own judgement, but I think us as a team, I think we’ve done really well and there’s still a lot more to come as the gaffer keeps saying and hopefully we can show everyone that.”
“It (training) has been good. We had that month where it was always Saturday-Tuesday so it has been great to get back out there and try a few different things out.
“It makes a massive difference having everyone back.
“We need to go and dominate. We have eight games to go and whoever starts, go there, push, and give it our all.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.