So, it’s finally looking like football will return across the water and I can’t wait.
When it does, there will be Irish interest across all divisions and there are plenty of players who I can’t wait to see.
In particular, these 10 players are the ones who I reckon will hit the ground running.
Everybody knows Matt Doherty, but I’m really intrigued as to where his career goes from here. He’s had a fantastic time of late and he’s played a huge part in the success story at Wolves. He’s scored 20 goals in 251 games and it’s no surprise that there’s been interest from other clubs. Say for instance that the Wolves manager Nuno Espírito Santo was to leave, I’d be very interested to see where Matt Doherty ends up or would he stay at Wolves. I think he’s capable of playing with one of the top six clubs and Spurs have already shown an interest in him. It’s no surprise because he’s been that good. It’s hard to believe that he’s only got nine caps for Ireland, but he’s going to become a permanent fixture in Stephen Kenny’s team. Form wise, Matt is the best player Ireland have anywhere in the world.
He’s had so much success since he’s been at Sheffield Utd and his level of performance in the Premier League have been brilliant. He signed a new contract in 2018, but the Sheffield Utd manager Chris Wilder has already spoken of adding to that because of the form John has been in. They’ll want to nail him down too because there has been interest from some of the top clubs. He’s 27 and yet, he’s only got eight international caps – that’s crazy! Stephen Kenny is a big fan of his and he will add to those caps. By the end of his career, I expect him to have hit 50-plus caps.
Collins has a really big future ahead of him and he’s a player very much to watch. He’s only just turned 19 and he plays for Stoke City. He’s already made his debut and he made history when he became The Potters youngest ever captain in the Carabao Cup last year. On the recommendation of Darren Fletcher, Man Utd have been alerted to him as well, so that’s massive. Stoke had been struggling a bit, but they’ve turned a corner since Michael O’Neill came in and I expect Nathan to play a big part for them going forward. Stoke have already got him to sign a five-year deal and that’s because of the attention he’s been getting elsewhere.
This is a player I’m mad about and I’ve spoken about him a lot. He’s a fantastic talent and out of all the Ireland U21 players at the moment, he’s the best of them all. He’s been on loan at Millwall from Brighton and he’s already up for the Player Of The Year award in the Championship. He’s had a magnificent season and if Millwall can make the Play-Offs, it’s that kind of experience which will stand to him. Brighton have already said that they want him back permanently when his loan move expires and don’t be surprised to see him go straight into their midfield as a regular starter. With the Stephen Kenny era just starting, he’s one who will feature heavily in the Ireland fold and come time, he’ll be a permanent fixture in Ireland’s midfield.
Idah came to prominence when he scored the hat-trick against Preston in the FA Cup earlier in the year. We all thought he’d kick on and become a permanent fixture for Norwich after that, but it’s been hard for him. A lot of that is down to the position Norwich find themselves in the Premier League. It might not be a bad thing for him if Norwich are relegated either, which I expect to happen, because it might just be what his career needs. I can see him getting his chance in the Championship because you would expect the likes of Teemu Pukki to move on and a full season in the Championship is just what Adam needs. He’s played just three games for Norwich, but he’s done really well for Stephen Kenny’s Ireland U21 team and I can see him featuring in Kenny’s senior setup going forward.
We all know Jack from a League Of Ireland point of view, but I’m expecting him to go back across the water if he keeps up the level of form that he’s been showing. Shamrock Rovers fans won’t like to hear that, however they know themselves how good he is. He’s scored five goals in five matches for Rovers in the early part of the season and he’s been brilliant. Plenty of people know that Jack has had a lot of opportunities in the UK, but he’s found himself again since coming back to Shamrock Rovers and he’s also picked up two international caps as well. A lot of teams in England are still aware of Jack and if he could impress for Ireland in a couple of the early games under Stephen, I fully expect one of those clubs to come in for him.
He’s featured a lot in the first team for Derby County making 21 appearances and he’s scored four goals. Phillip Cocu has given him his chance and he likes Knight a lot. He scored two goals against Charlton in one of the live games on Sky Sports just after Christmas and that brought him to a lot of people’s attention. Derby County have already given him a new contract and Wayne Rooney has also spoke very highly of him, saying that Jason reminds him of himself in terms of his drive. I can see him keeping up his progression because Phillip Cocu is brilliant at bringing young lads through. I’m expecting big things from this lad.
Troy has got a lot of attention so far and sometimes, I’ve felt sorry for him because of the pressure he was coming under. It seemed like everybody was pinning Ireland’s hopes on him. He’s obviously a massive talent, but he’s only 18-years-old. There’s no doubt Mourinho going into Spurs has stagnated Troy’s progress and I believe the current break in the season has come at a good time for him. It will give him a chance to reflect on the last 12 months or so and hopefully when things resume, he can then kick on. I think the best thing for Troy is to go out on loan, let his football do the talking and make a name for himself.
This young lad has had a fantastic season with West Brom and he’s a player who went out and made a name for himself at Exeter City. He has since come back and got his opportunity under Slaven Bilić. He’s like an old-school tough centre-half, but he plays at right-full back for West Brom in a very good team. They look like getting promoted to the Premier League and that would allow him make the step up to the next level. His attitude is brilliant, and it would be great to have another potential Irish international playing in the Premier League.
He’s only 17, but he’s already represented Ireland at underage level. Hodge is with Manchester City and he will need to be exceptional to come through there but, whatever happens, the coaching he will get there will stand to him. He’s a small nimble midfielder and while he’s small in stature, he’s massive in heart. He covers every inch of grass. I watched him a lot in the U17 European Championships last year, when he was only 16, and he was outstanding. He is a massive talent.
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