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irish hope Adam Idah threatening to break doubled glazed Premier League glass ceiling

The days of Irish hopefuls making the leap from schoolboy clubs and instantly lighting up the Premier League stage may be gone for good

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Norwich City’s Adam Idah celebrates an own goal by Everton’s Michael Keane during their Premier League match at Carrow Road. Photo: PA/Reuters

Norwich City’s Adam Idah celebrates an own goal by Everton’s Michael Keane during their Premier League match at Carrow Road. Photo: PA/Reuters

Norwich City’s Adam Idah celebrates an own goal by Everton’s Michael Keane during their Premier League match at Carrow Road. Photo: PA/Reuters

THEY have been hailed as a golden generation capable of putting the Ireland back on the path to international success, but patience is a commodity that needs to be embraced in the modern game.

That's the verdict of experienced Premier League manager and former Ireland full-back Chris Hughton, who insists the struggles endured by youngsters Troy Parrott, Jayson Molumby, Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah are only to be expected.

The days of Irish hopefuls making the leap from schoolboy clubs and instantly lighting up the Premier League stage may be gone for good, with the standards of fitness, ability and dedication required to reach the top of the sport going to a whole new level over the last two decades.

Idah is now threatening to make his breakthrough at Premier League level after some impressive performances with Norwich in the last month, but former Canaries, Newcastle, Birmingham, and Brighton boss Hughton has sprinkled some perspective on challenges that lie in front of them.

"It's not a question of a lack of ability with young players coming from Ireland, but more that the gap in quality is now so vast," Hughton told the Sunday World in an exclusive interview.

"I look at a young man like Troy Parrott at Tottenham and there is a lot of hype around him and how good he could be, but it is very different playing football in Ireland or academy football at a Premier League club and trying to step up to the Premier League.

"The quality of players coming into England now is at a different level to what it was when I was playing for Tottenham and that's because the pool of talent has widened.

"We are no longer just looking at players from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales because scouting now stretches around the world, as was not the case in the 1970s and '80s.

"So a young player coming over from Ireland will now face a challenge of not only trying to adapt to a new life in a new country, but also competing with the best players in the world, and it's too much for some of them.

"When I was at Brighton, we always had our eyes open on the Irish market and we brought Richie Towell over from Duldalk, but it was a big step up for him and that will be the case for a lot of players these days.

"That is not to say clubs don't look at the Irish league because the value for money you get in Ireland can be good if you find the right player.

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Everton captain Seamus Coleman (Nick Potts/PA)

Everton captain Seamus Coleman (Nick Potts/PA)

Everton captain Seamus Coleman (Nick Potts/PA)

"You look at someone like Seamus Coleman, who Everton signed more than a decade ago for a modest fee, and he has had a fantastic career at the club.

"But it is harder than ever for young players to come through the ranks and get into a Premier League first team because all of the clubs have enough money to sign proven performers, and they will often jump ahead of a young player for the first team."

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It was a managerial change that opened the door for Idah's breakthrough at Norwich, with his Premier League debut against Manchester United at Old Trafford in January 2020 followed by too many months of frustration waiting for further chances.

Fleeting appearances from the bench didn't give Idah the chance to develop on the biggest of football stages, but the 20-year-old from Cork has found a supporter in new Canaries boss Dean Smith.

Now Idah is leading the statistics for Irish players in the Premier League this season, with his 16 appearances for Norwich putting him one ahead of Everton skipper Coleman and Brighton's Shane Duffy, who has played in 14 league games for Brighton.

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Dean Smith head coach of Aston Villa after the Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Aston Villa. (Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images)

Dean Smith head coach of Aston Villa after the Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Aston Villa. (Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images)

Dean Smith head coach of Aston Villa after the Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Aston Villa. (Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images)

Smith is convinced he has a lot to offer as he stated last week: "It's a real tough balancing act when you are working with young players.

"If you do let them go out on loan you've got the risk of your main player getting injured, and then all of a sudden you find yourself left with not too much.

"At the moment I think we're working really well with Adam on the training ground, and we feel there's an improvement we can see on the training ground.

"This recent period has given us the chance to work with him. He hasn't got the game time we, or he, would obviously like over the last couple of years, but it will come, that's for sure.

"I will be pushing him for that consistent level now from him, because he can be really important. I said earlier in the season when I came in that we had to share the weight of the goals with Teemu Pukki because at times we were all looking to him for a goal or two and now we have got the likes of Adam now stepping up to the plate."

Idah's breakthrough reignites what appeared to be a fading hope that an Irish youngster can find a way to break through at Premier League level, and Hughton insists the cream will still rise to the top.

"Even at the top clubs, we are seeing young players coming through academies and getting chances," added the former Ireland full-backwho is close to being appointed as the new boss of the Ghana national team.

"Phil Foden is a great example, Trent Alexander-Arnold another. Spurs have had a few in recent years as well, with Harry Kane.

"Premier League academies are full of very good young players these days, but the old saying that the cream rises to the top still applies.

"Whether you are from Ireland, England or anywhere in the world, you have to believe you can make it to the top of the game because without that belief you have no chance."

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