There is never any shortage of narratives when the Premier League season begins.
For the selection of Irish players attached to clubs in England’s top tier, it is bound to be another interesting season with plenty of twists, turns, and surprises along the way.
Here are five storylines to watch out for:
James McCarthy to fulfil his potential
In spite of the criticism lobbed his way earlier this year, McCarthy finished last season as one of the Republic of Ireland’s most consistent performers at club level. In all, he played 34 games for Everton (scoring two goals and recording two assists) and yet there is still plenty of room for improvement. Rumours of interest from Tottenham Hotspur swirled all summer, but with a new five-year deal signed, it’s time that the Scottish-born midfielder truly transformed into someone who can dominate the big games.
The emergence of Sean Murray to cause a stir
If he can shake off the injuries that have disrupted his career in the last 18 months, and a one-month loan at Wigan will help with that, then Murray could turn out to be a real star for Watford. The 21-year-old is a classy midfielder with excellent technique and a superb strike of the ball. The Hornets may have brought in 10 new signings ahead of their return to the Premier League, but Murray, and compatriot Tommie Hoban, has the quality required to break into Quique Flores’ side.
Hammers to place trust in Darren Randolph
Sam Allardyce is gone and Slaven Bilic is now running things at West Ham United. So that may mean first-choice goalkeeper Adrian will come under more pressure. Randolph played in their opening Uefa Europa League qualifiers and several pre-season games, but he must be patient to wait for an opportunity. Once that arrives, the 28-year-old — who has kept 62 clean sheets in his last 225 club games — can prove his worth and take over as the No 1.
The battle facing Shane Long to become a regular
Southampton may have lost more key players in this summer transfer window, but up front they added Spaniard Juanmi and welcome Jay Rodriguez back from injury. That is bad news for Long, who has found the wide positions to be well stocked and Graziano Pelle unmoveable as the main striker. So where does Long fit in? Right now, nowhere really and that is worrying because the Ireland ace is at the stage of his career where he needs to be playing every week.
Players fighting for their club futures
The short-term futures for several Irish players remain uncertain, especially so for Everton duo Aiden McGeady and Darron Gibson, who have seen Gerard Deulofeu and Tom Cleverley arrive at Goodison Park this summer. Others in precarious positions are Stephen Ireland (Stoke City), Rob Elliot (Newcastle United), and Paddy McCarthy (Crystal Palace), while a host of former Premier League players, like Richard Dunne, Stephen Kelly, Ian Harte, and Owen Garvan, are still without clubs after being released.
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