READING boss, Brian McDermott, gave some good advice to aspiring young Irish football hopefuls when he suggested that such players didn’t necessarily have to be signed by an English club at 15 or 16 years of age.
McDermott, who was in the Brandywell last season when casting his eye over James McClean, believes that young players should learn their trade at home and move on to the bigger leagues when they are more mature.
Indeed, some recent examples prove that McDermott’s suggestion is sound advice. Keith Fahy moved from St. Patrick’s Athletic to Birmingham at 26-years-old and, almost immediately, made it into the Birmingham first team.
Aston Villa signed 21-year-old left back, Enda Stevens, from Shamrock Rovers while both Kevin Doyle and Shane Long were no longer teenagers when they were snapped up by Reading back in 2005.
Reading’s latest Irish capture is 20-year-old Karl Sheppard, also signed from Shamrock Rovers, after he had a spell with Galway United.
Of course, closer to home our very own James McClean only really started to attract attention following his displays as a 21-year-old and the Creggan lad has since the left-sided midfield role his own at Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland.
So youngsters clearly can have a career in the local game and still fulfill their dream of playing at the highest level possible.
Far too many of our young players who left these shores at 15 and 16 years old have returned branded as failures and, in many instances, gave up the game.
In truth, talent develops and, with a bit of luck, it will show through in the end but very rarely at 15 or 16 years of age.
Read more from the Doc in the Journal every Tuesday