The background to the resumption of the EFL Championship may have taken some clubs (QPR) somewhat by surprise but it is a perfect opportunity for a host of Republic of Ireland players to enhance their season’s work. Hawkeye Sidekick identifies a number of player to look out for when the season resumes on June 20th.
The season to date has been a standout one for Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder loanee Jayson Molumby who has excelled with Millwall this season. His eye-catching skillful midfield displays drawing admirers. His technical ability on the ball is standout and is what Stephen Kenny will be looking from the underage capped Republic of Ireland international. This player has an incredibly bright future ahead of him. Millwall have reaped the rewards of this loan move.
This may be a left field choice for some who follow this blog but Millwall’s resurgence in the EFL Championship for me has been due to the midfield pairing of Molumby and Shaun Williams. The Dublin native’s age profile is probably against him in terms of senior national team selection but his performances with Millwall has seen several goals and assists coupled with his trademark astute use of the ball and tackling. Millwall are on the cusp of the playoffs and these two players will provide momentum for Gary Rowett’s side when the league resumes.
Dara O’Shea for me has been a consistent top performer for West Bromwich Albion this season. The club are on the verge of a return back to the top flight and the contribution of O’Shea has helped in no small measure. His game management and decision making has earned the plaudits of club manager Slaven Bilic, a former player who knows a thing or two about the finer elements of central defending. O’Shea continues to grow into the position. The 21 year old has a bright future and senior national team caps are surely not that far away. A player to watch in the crunch season ending promotion fixtures for the Baggies.
The Kildare native is a massive prospect. His release from Liverpool last season was disappointing but the player needed to move on and secure game minutes. A move to QPR and London has ensued and after a slow start to his career with the Mark Warburton managed club, the central defender has started to secure game minutes and plaudits for his composed performances for the West London club. His display at home to league leaders Leeds United at the start of the year a timely reminder of his skill set and talent. An unerring performance in the midst of relentless Leeds United attacks in that fixture. Hoping the player can push on and elevate his game to new levels now.
A baptism of fire for Nathan Collins to professional first team football this season. Stoke City started the season horrendously with numerous defensive gaffes along the way but the one positive / crumb of comfort came in the emergence of Nathan Collins. A 19 year old Leixlip native who belied his inexperience with some standout performances despite other more experienced players around him struggling all ends up. The player has been singled out for praise from managers Nathan Jones and Michael O’Neill who see massive potential in the Kildare youngster. His passing ability, game management and overall defensive play is already at a high level so you can imagine the upside for this player in a couple of more seasons with additional first team football under his belt.
The Galway native’s career at QPR looks doomed during the Steve McClaren era but a change in position to full back and confidence from current club manager Mark Warburton has had the desired effect. Manning’s pace and ability to beat his opponent were all to see when he first broke into the QPR first team a couple of years ago. The player has continued to show resiliency despite some significant injury setbacks but is a player like Conor Masterson that now needs to kick on and propel his club career to the next level.
Preston North End are currently in the last playoff spot but there are a host of teams behind them waiting to pounce on a loss of form. Alan Browne is a midfield player who has excellent technical passing ability, work rate. He has scored some vital goals so far for his club this season and for the Lancashire club to make the playoffs, the Cork native will need to get his impressive club form going.
Sean Maguire will be a key player for Preston North End for this end of season run. The hope is that the pandemic break has given Maguire the time to fully recover from injury to establish full fitness. When on form and fitness, the player movement in and around the box is sensational. It is imperative that Maguire kicks on for his club now and does not languish on the club treatment table with the club poised to launch an concerted effort to secure top flight promotion. A player who Stephen Kenny will have a close eye on in the coming weeks.
Scott Hogan is a striker I like. Big, strong and appeared to work hard down the channels for his side. His loan move from Aston Villa to Birmingham City has provided Hogan with game minutes and goals have followed. It is questionable whether Stephen Kenny has Hogan in his long term plans given the underage attacking talent available. A player though who will look to kick on for the rest of the season and look to perhaps a secure a permanent away from Aston Villa.
The Derby County season has been a train wreck with the team social car crash which left Richard Keogh with season ending injuries still a sore point. The emergence of Jason Knight in the midfield has provided hope for Derby County fans. His all action box to box style ans ability from long range has quickly seen the Dublin native become a Pride Park native. The nineteen year old has a massive future in the game and more game time for Derby County in this end of season run-in will only add to his list of admirers.
Stoke City’s Irish contingent along with Nathan Collins will be a key club to follow. James McClean and Stephen Ward will no doubt get their game minutes but with the club in a precarious league position, their performances will need to be on point to stave off relegation.
Blackburn Rovers and Darragh Lenihan continue to grow in this division. Lenihan has been a key fulcrum in the side this season and along with Derrick Williams, the side are well positioned for a playoff push come June 20th.
Callum Robinson’s loan move to West Bromwich Albion is one which could prove beneficial to both parties. Robinson’s speed and attacking threat could wield vital goals and assists down the stretch for the club. A player who Stephen Kenny will look at and hopefully if form permits play a valuable contribution for the national senior side in the playoffs against Slovakia.