SHEFFIELD UNITED winger, Stephen Mallon is confident his loan spell with Derry City can put him in the ‘shop window’ as he looks to follow in the footsteps of his fellow ‘Blade’, David Parkhouse.
The 20 year-old Poleglass native admits Parkhouse played a major role in convincing him to join the Candy Stripes on an initial six month loan deal as he looks to secure regular senior football.
And having watched how last season’s top goalscorer significantly enhanced his reputation following his 10 month loan spell at Brandywell, Mallon is convinced playing League of Ireland football will be perfect for his own development.
“No pressure,” he laughed when asked if he was hoping to emulate the impact Parkhouse made at the club last year.
“I’ve already had a word with him and told him I’m going to try and do a bit better, maybe go one step further.
“One thing I promise is I will give 100 per cent to the badge very week. I’ll work my socks off and hopefully I can get a few goals and assists and help the team and maybe even get some silverware at the end.
“It was actually David who came up with the idea of me coming here and when I talked to him he spoke very highly of the club; of the league, the staff and the players,” he explained.
“So it was just something I thought was a great idea and so far I’m enjoying it here.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he added. “It’s an opportunity for me to go and get games, get playing and get that experience I’ve needed this past couple of years.”
While returning to Ireland from Premiership outfit, Sheffield United could be considered by some as a step backwards in terms of his development, Mallon believes it’s proven in the past to be the perfect ‘stepping stone’.
“I’m not coming over here with the mindset that it’s a backward move because if I thought that I probably wouldn’t have come,” he said.
“I know this league has got some talented players and the tempo and everything just suits me. I can come here, work hard, get games and put myself in the shop window to kick on from here.
“Everyone saw what ‘Parky’ did last year and he’s put himself in a miles better position than what he was in before he came here.
“That’s something I’d like to achieve while I’m here and then get back to England to kick on. Coming here is just a short term thing.
“In the long term I want to play at the highest level so hopefully here is a stepping stone to achieving that.”
The Republic of Ireland U21 international made the unusual switch to Central Coast Mariners last January on loan until the end of the Hyundai A-League season - a move which came about due to ex-Sheffield United captain, Nick Montgomery’s assistant coach role with the Aussie club. However, he’s now ready to test himself at the top level in Ireland.
“I know I’m a bit late coming in to senior football,” he said. “I had a few games in Australia but it’s a different kind of tempo and a different kind of football to the UK and Ireland.
“I’m looking forward to getting playing in the League of Ireland. The move to Australia came up last January and it was something I really couldn’t turn down as it was a life experience along with a football experience.
“It was halfway across the world but it was games in senior football and just a different platform to what I’ve been used to. It was a good.”
Playing closer to his West Belfast home is also a factor, he believes, will help get the best out of him this season.
“It’s nice getting home and being in Ireland. It’s a lot different to England and just a lot better feeling being home and being able to see my family on days off.
“I know it’s the sacrifice you have to make, going away from home, if you want to make it at the top level but there’s just that happiness when you can see your family, you’re not away from them for maybe four or five months at a time.
“It’s nice to see my family and for them to be able to get to games, stuff like that keeps you going.”
As he experiences his second pre-season in six months, the versatile Mallon can’t wait to get the season started.
“It’s been great. The lads, the staff and the fans have all been great, really welcoming. This will be my second pre-season of the season. It’s been tough since I’ve been going from lighter sessions and having games into triple sessions and it has been tough on the body but it’s what you’ve got to do if you want to win trophies. That’s the hard work you have to put in.”
He also hopes that playing in Ireland will raise his international prospects as he looks to cement a place in Stephen Kenny’s U21 side.
“I was away in Toulon with the Ireland U21s last summer and it was a great experience and it’s always an honour to play international football.
“When I joined up with the Ireland squad, I wasn’t really playing games. I was only playing U23 football now and again that’s not ideal. You want to be playing men’s football.
“That will definitely help me push on and we’ll see where it takes me international-wise. It’s a dream to play at the highest level, international senior football, and coming here could put me in a position where I can move forward and try get that senior call-up or get into that U21 side.
“Getting the games here and working hard every day puts me in a good position to kick on in the international scene as well," added the Belfast lad.