Mick McCarthy recently admitted Troy Parrott is a ‘shoo-in’ for a call-up to the senior squad if he figures regularly for Spurs this season
It’s strange to reflect now that the last time Liverpool were champions of England, there was a heavy Irish influence in the squad.
Though Jim Beglin left for Leeds before the start of that 1989/90 season and John Aldridge joined Real Sociedad in September, Ronnie Whelan, Ray Houghton, and Steve Staunton all made significant contributions as Liverpool won their 18th league title by nine points from an Aston Villa team that included Paul McGrath and Tony Cascarino. Different times.
Fast forward three decades and you have to scroll down to seventh place finisher in the most recent Premier League season to find an active Irishman, Matt Doherty’s dynamism a key component of a swashbuckling Wolves side. Different times indeed.
It’s all-but impossible to imagine a return to those golden days when Jack Charlton was king but hope springs eternal. Perhaps these four unheralded young guns will spark a new golden age.
Troy Parrott (Tottenham)
For nigh-on a decade and a half, every central midfielder Arsenal have signed has been compared to Patrick Vieira. Players have come and gone but nobody has lived up the ‘new Vieira’ billing. Why? Because replacing a legend is hard to do, a reality Ireland manager Mick McCarthy is well aware of as he looks to fill the Robbie Keane-shaped hole in his attack.
Goals have been hard to come by since the great man’s retirement but a new great white hope has emerged in the shape of Troy Parrott, who McCarthy recently admitted is a “shoo-in” for a call-up to the senior squad if he figures regularly for Tottenham this season.
Hopes are high in that department as, while the former Belvedere player only turned 17 in February, he has enjoyed a highly productive pre-season, impressing in friendlies against Juventus, Manchester United, and Real Madrid, performances that have seen the likes of Richard Dunne and Gary Breen call for Parrott to be fast-tracked into the senior Ireland squad.
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino is clearly a big fan and the Argentine has never been afraid to put his faith in youth. The boy wonder could not be in better hands.
Michael Obafemi (Southampton)
Exciting though he is, Troy Parrott isn’t the only emerging young Irish striker.
One of Martin O’Neill’s last acts as Ireland boss was to hand Michael Obafemi his debut, a special moment that sparked a golden spell for the-then 18-year-old, who was handed his first Southampton start in a 2-2 draw with Manchester United a fortnight later.
Another landmark followed three weeks later, Obafemi becoming the youngest Southampton player to score in the Premier League when he netted in a 3-1 win at Huddersfield. Sadly, he would play just once more last season as hamstring issues hamstrung his progress.
Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl has warned Obafemi that he needs to be more professional to avoid a repeat of those issues and the player seems to have responded well to the tough-love approach.
“As the manager has said, I really have to manage my back and my hamstrings, so I do all the exercises and stretches I need to before training now,” Obafemi told local media earlier this week.
My mindset has changed a bit because I can appreciate being able to train every day now. I have to pay a lot of attention to my body to keep it in good condition.
“Obviously, I want to score goals and get assists because I’ve only had that feeling once, and I want to have it again.” Let’s hope he gets his wish.
Adam Idah (Norwich City)
Another young striker who falls into the could-be-anything category is Idah, the 18-year-old from Cork scoring 12 times for the Norwich U23 side last season.
Like Troy Parrott, Idah has impressed during pre-season, scoring twice on his first start for the first-team in the 4-1 win over German outfit Bonner SC last month.
“Adam is an outstanding finisher and he proved this today. He showed really good instinct and had two good finishes,” Canaries boss Daniel Farke said in the aftermath.
There are also other topics in the game. I don’t like to praise the young lads too much. He has to step up in other areas of his game but it’s always a good sign when a striker scores.
Earlier this summer, Idah helped the Ireland U21s reach the semi-finals of the Toulon Tournament so it’s no surprise Norwich moved to tie him down by giving him a four-year contract. He looks a useful prospect.
Mark Travers (Bournemouth)
Not many people had heard of Travers before he was handed a Premier League baptism of fire when Tottenham visited Bournemouth at the back end of last season.
Spurs knew all about him come full-time though as the 20-year-old repeatedly thwarted a team that ended the season in a Champions League final, a succession of superb saves paving the way for an unlikely 1-0 Cherries win. It was one of the easiest man-of-the-match decisions pundits faced all season.
He didn’t fare as well second time out, conceding five goals as Bournemouth lost 5-3 at Crystal Palace in their final game of the season but that didn’t stop the Cherries from giving him a new five-year contract.
If supporters have their wish, Travers will start the season as their number one as the Maynooth native this week topped a poll in the Bournemouth Echo that asked who fans would like to see start in goal against Sheffield United tomorrow.
If he gets the nod from Eddie Howe, current Ireland number one Darren Randolph could soon have serious opposition for his jersey.