STOKE HEAD COACH ALEX NEILL has claimed that Ireland's Will Smallbone is an 'unbelievable talent' ahead of the Swansea game tonight.
Smallbone (23) has joined Stoke on loan from Southampton and impressed at the Bet365 Stadium this year.
The Ireland midfielder has already made 30 appearances and scored two goals for his new side.
On the international scene Smallbone has only ever represented Ireland at underage international levels, declaring at 18 through his Kilkenny-born mother Mary. A senior Ireland call-up came last November
On the back of his good form his club, he called up to the Ireland squad for the friendlies against Norway and Malta, unfortunately, he did not feature in any of those games.
Speaking before the 1-0 defeat to Blackpool last weekend to Stoke-on-Trent Live, Neill praised the Ireland youngster and said, “I think Will Smallbone, in my opinion, is a completely underrated player. If you look what Will brings to the team, his legs are to die for, he’s unbelievable in terms of the amount of ground he covers in a game. When he’s not there is when you recognise it the most.
“Will, generally, in any training session or any game churns out the most distance compared to anyone on a regular basis.
Alex Neil on 'underrated' Will Smallbone, a midfielder with 'legs to die for'. He's convinced that goals and assists will follow. https://t.co/dpl4WYvCYY
— Pete Smith (@PeteSmith1983) February 17, 2023
“Also technically, I think his understanding of pressing and jumping and locking things on is excellent.
The Stoke boss also expects the Ireland U21 star to get better because of his age.
“And he’s only a young lad. He’s 22 and this is his first year at this level. If any team had a young player coming through who started to play in his first season and produce what he is producing, I think you’d get really excited about him," added Neill.
“I think he’s got a really bright future ahead of him and, well, I play him all the time. He’s got huge amounts to offer.”
It remains to be seen if Smallbone will make the Ireland senior squad for the France game next month, but if Neill's comments are anything to go by, I'd imagine that Stephen Kenny won't rule out including him in the squad.
Ireland's game against France takes place on March 27.