Mick McCarthy has made it clear that should Troy Parrott break into the Spurs first-team in the coming weeks and show that he’s up to the challenge, the Ireland manager would have no hesitation about fast-tracking the teenage sensation into his squad for the remaining Euro 2020 qualifiers.
On Tuesday night, the 17-year-old was the talk of two towns – Kalmar and Dublin – after his impressive brace in Ireland’s convincing 3-1 away win against Sweden made it three goals in his first two appearances for Stephen Kenny’s U21s.
And while the seniors delivered the same winning scoreline in their friendly against Bulgaria at the Aviva Stadium, it was the headline-grabbing performance of Parrott after he’d come off the bench in Sweden, which has since seen Mick McCarthy pressed about what more might be required of the striker for him to come into the reckoning ahead of the October qualifiers away to Georgia and Switzerland and the final game of the campaign at home to Denmark in November.
And the senior manager could hardly have been more explicit in his response about a player who has thus far been featuring in his club’s U23 side.
“Let’s say the scenario is he gets in the team and he plays for Spurs and he scores a couple of goals, Stephen won’t be having him,” he said. “By the way he (Kenny) would acknowledge the fact that he should come and be in my squad then. That would normally be the case.”
Referencing the fact that he had given one Robbie Keane his senior international debut, also at the age of 17, McCarthy went on: “Where was Robbie playing when I played him? Wolves’ first-team. It does help. I’m not going to say absolutely, categorically, that you have to be playing first-team, but it does help.
“Can I just say something to you? I’ve had 970-odd games as a manager and coach and I might just be given that bit of credence that I can tell the difference. The U23s is a very gentle league compared to any of the others. Technical, yes. But I’ll still go and watch him. I’ll get Robbie to go out certainly and TC (Terry Connor) - he’s a better judge of strikers than I am, I have to be honest.
“I’m not ruling him out, I’m not saying he’s going to be in.”
McCarthy made a point of noting that, while Parrott had scored on his debut for the U21s in last Friday’s 1-0 victory over Armenia in Tallaght, he did not make the starting line-up for the game in Sweden.
“It was interesting because all the talk was about him after the game on Friday - I don’t know why,” he said. “And Stephen didn’t play him (from the start against the Swedes) so he obviously thought the same. It was (Aaron) Connolly and (Jayson) Molumby who shone (in Tallaght).
“But fair play to him to come on and score the goals (in Kalmar). I love that attitude, that’s something else that I think is brilliant - to react like that to being left out. Over the years, I’ve seen many that’s been left out sulk on the bench and then come on and don’t do it. So quite clearly he’s got a great attitude towards it as well.”
McCarthy’s desire to see the young guns playing more regular first-team football also applies to the Damien Duff-like Connolly at Brighton and commanding midfielder Molumby, currently on loan from Brighton to Millwall. The manager has described them both as “different class” but, following his own side’s friendly victory over Bulgaria, pointed out that he already has more experienced options available to him in the senior squad.
“Josh (Cullen) has come in and played in the first-team and so has Alan Browne. He’s playing regularly. It applies to them all. I don’t rule any of them out. But I keep telling you: I’ve got eight games, me, in which to qualify. I’m not trying and testing people. I did the other night. But nine of the players have nearly played in all of the games so why would I be looking to change that?”
On Cullen, McCarthy laughed off the observation that the Charlton midfielder is not the biggest.
“Neither was Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles,” he smiled. “I haven’t got reservations because he’s technically very good and a tough little sod. He puts his foot in and stands his ground. You wouldn’t think he’s a little fella that gets knocked around. He handles the ball particularly well. He’s got good legs and gets around the pitch.
“I asked Alan Browne and himself to make sure that one of them sat. They both like to get forward but that’s all well and good because you can end up with a big gap like the Grand Canyon. I thought they did it well. If one went, the other one sat.”
But, from McCarthy’s point of view, arguably the biggest bonus from Tuesday night at the Aviva was the debut performance and goal by Luton Town’s James Collins which, in the manager’s words, has the striker “nailed-on” for inclusion in his next squad.
“But he was better than that. He was technically good. He stuck the ball - like the one that dropped down out of the sky and he pulled it down and set it up.
“I thought he was really good. And, for his goal, it’s where he ran. He knows where to go and how to get goals. It doesn’t matter if you are playing for a non-league team somewhere or Premier League, it’s where you run to get goals. I think he showed the other night that he’s very capable.”