Sean Roughan knew he was learning from a left-foot technician when fellow Irishman Mark Kennedy was appointed as his Lincoln City manager.
It had been something of a crash-course for Roughan since he moved cross-channel, a first-team debut granted a week past his 17th birthday and just before finalising his Leaving Cert – both amid strict Covid-19 lockdowns.
Two years later and he’s got his gateway to college pocketed but not required in the short-term at least as he’s racked up over 60 first-team appearances and is demanded of full attention by Kennedy.
This week the left-back is on international duty, preparing for Sunday’s U21 friendly against Iceland at Turner’s Cross and the Euro qualifiers kicking off in September.
Kennedy arrived in May – while Roughan was on loan at Drogheda United – but the pair bonded in pre-season and in unison are distorting the natural order of League One by sitting in 14th, above the likes of Oxford United and MK Dons.
It’s the first permanent job for Kennedy, bar a brief stint at Macclesfield, and he’s able to impart the knowledge gained from an eventful career.
From the rosiness of becoming the most expensive teenage player in Britain in 1995 when Liverpool splashed out £1.5 million to the embarrassment five years later of being sent home alongside Phil Babb by Mick McCarthy following their Starsky and Hutch late-night incident on Ireland duty.
Irish fans will fondly remember him for his rocket of a goal in the 1999 win over a Yugoslavian slide that reached the World Cup last-16 a few months earlier.
“He’s always telling me about his Ireland caps and we joke about him having the best left foot in the club,” revealed Roughan about the 46-year-old.
“He’s still got a ridiculous left foot which he shows off in training.
“As a left winger who moved into left back himself, he tells me a lot of stuff and what to improve on. He’s great around the training ground and all the lads like him.
“Tactically, he’s very good and he’s made the team hard to beat. Because we don’t have the biggest budget in League One, you need to be hard to beat.”
In actual fact, their 38 goals conceded, just over one per game on average, is a better record than league leaders Plymouth Argyle.
Roughan has been part of that defence and his strides were spotted by a clutch of Premier League clubs. The 19-year-old is glad to have stayed put.
“I went to Chelsea, Southampton and Brighton on trial but didn’t sign,” he explained.
“I’m now playing first-team football which I’d rather be doing than playing Under-23s.
“You benefit much more from being in matches that mean something. There’s a hunger to win, block the shot and get the three points.
“A lot of people were saying my loan to Drogheda was a step back because I’d played a good few games at Lincoln City.
“But to come back after injury and play so many games did a lot for me by regaining my confidence – getting me into Ireland’s U19s in the Euro qualifiers in England.
“You have to make calls in football and I thought it was best for me. It paid off because I’ve played a lot of games for Lincoln this season.”
U21 friendly: Ireland v Iceland, Turner’s Cross, Sunday 4pm.