ireland's Col' | 

James McClean backs 'absolutely special' Nathan Collins to make his mark for Ireland

Nathan Collins was the standout for Ireland against Ukraine. Rafal Oleksiewicz/PA Wire.

Daniel McDonnell

James McClean has hailed the rise of the ‘special’ Nathan Collins but Ireland’s new man of the moment is staying tight lipped about his club future after Burnley’s Premier League relegation.

Collins was the standout of Ireland’s summer window with his incredible solo run from centre half against Ukraine on Tuesday bringing his profile to another level and leading to suggestions that significant clubs will look to keep the 21-year-old in the top flight.

Burnley have just appointed Vincent Kompany as their new manager, and Collins was diplomatic on his future, welcoming the new boss without declaring with certainty that he would be staying put.

“Who knows where I’ll be in ten days, I don’t know myself,” said the Leixlip lad, who is planning a holiday to recharge his batteries. “We will see what happens.”

McClean has not been surprised by Collins’ impact having watched his development as a young player at Stoke where he broke into the first team as a 17-year-old.

Ireland’s stand in skipper in Lodz is a big believer in the Cherry Orchard graduate.

“I’ve no doubts about him,” he says, “I saw him when he was literally only a kid at Stoke and you could see his potential there. I remember saying to people back then ‘This lad is going to be a player’ and now he’s a very good player.

“I don’t want to put a lot of pressure on him by talking about what he can do because there will be a lot of that. But I think this lad is going to be absolutely special, and that’s only a good thing for Ireland.”

McClean admitted to a range of emotions on Ireland’s overall window with strong performances in what looked like the two hardest games on paper compensating in some way for defeats to Armenia and a second string Ukraine.

He is sure that Stephen Kenny’s side is heading in the right direction regardless of what is said outside the camp, and feels that the early setbacks might just have brought the group down to earth after positive comments in the build-up.

“It shows how far we’ve come that we are disappointed to come away with a point away to a good Ukraine side. This shows we are moving in the right direction, but we would have been a lot happier if we’d got something from the first two games. A point away is a good result but when you are 1-0 up in the game and then look at the first two games, we could have been a lot better off in the table.

“I thought against Scotland we were brilliant and on Tuesday we were very good. You can’t control outside noise. Coming into this camp, people were giving us pats on the back, stopping us on the street and saying ‘youse are going in the right direction’ and maybe you get caught up in that.

“Maybe those first two games was the reality check, we’ve had that kick up the backside and I think we responded very well. Coming out on the other side of it, we’ve showed there’s a lot of quality in this squad. It’s a young squad and I believe it’s only going to get better and that’s exciting for everyone involved really.

“We’ll look forward to September (a double header away to Scotland and at home to Armenia). After the last two games, it gives us a lot of belief.”

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