WHEN Stephen Kenny named his squad for Ireland’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Portugal, Azerbaijan and Serbia, you couldn’t help but notice its youthful elements.
Ireland supporters will no doubt be pleased to see the likes of Adam Idah, Troy Parrott and Jayson Molumby continuing to be given a chance by Kenny and it will certainly be interesting to see how it pans out in the long run.
But their selection does seem a little questionable when all three players are struggling to fulfil their potential at their parent clubs, with Parrott out on-loan once again from Spurs to MK Dons, and Molumby and Idah struggling to get any game time at Brighton and Norwich.
Of course, it’s much harder for young Irish players to get a break in the Premier League these days. Top-flight clubs, especially the Big Six, are spending huge sums on established players rather than inducting players from the academy.
And those few teams who do focus on youth are scouring the international market which makes it harder still for Irish hopefuls.
However, that’s not to say you can’t progress from the underage teams to the first team. Just look at those such as of Bukayo Saka at Arsenal and Phil Foden at Manchester City.
In both cases, what has distinguished Saka, 19, and Foden, 21, from their peers is the fact they have performed at a level above their age range. When they secured their first contract and began training with the senior side, they didn’t stop wanting to learn but instead kept improving to develop from novices to first teamers.
These are often the players who become the stars they were tipped to be.
Break into the first team between the ages of 18 to 21 and you are more often than not set for a dazzling career.
Let time go by into your mid-twenties and you are likely to find yourself in the rungs below where you should have been.
For example, recently speaking in the Daily Mail, Brentford striker Ivan Toney spoke about the early years he spent at Newcastle United and the regrets he had not pushing harder on Tyneside.
“I was young when I moved to Newcastle and it is hard not to think you have made it,” said Toney. “You are in the Premier League and people around you are saying, “You are playing for a Premier League team, that’s crazy”.
“If I could go back now, I would have worked a lot harder knowing you have far from made it at that age even if you are in the Premier League. Look at someone with the talent of Phil Foden. He could have been chilling when he got into the first-team squad at Manchester City but look at how hard he has worked. It is hard not to get sucked into the status rather than actually doing your job and knowing what you are there for.”
Bringing it back to Ireland, over recent years there have been numerous talented youngsters who have ended up with lesser careers than they were touted for. Perhaps they were content with the life and perks of being a footballer.
Whatever it was, without the ruthless, dedicated mindset from the off, they didn’t make that next step like Robbie Keane did when he was the leading goalscorer for Wolverhampton Wanderers in the 1998-99 First Division season in his late teens.
Looking at this current Ireland team, it is in desperate need of a prodigy with the talent and determination to be a superstar like Keane.
Somebody who isn't prepared to wait around.