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YOUNG GUNS U-21 boss Jim Crawford gives words of encouragement to Ireland's promising strikers Parrott, Obafemi and Afolabi

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Troy Parrott has struggled to make an impact with Championship side Millwall.  Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Troy Parrott has struggled to make an impact with Championship side Millwall. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Celtic striker Jonathan Afolabi Afolabi is playing regularly on-loan at Dundee. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Celtic striker Jonathan Afolabi Afolabi is playing regularly on-loan at Dundee. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Southampton's Michael Obafemi is set for a spell on the sidelines after undergoing surgery on a muscle injury. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Southampton's Michael Obafemi is set for a spell on the sidelines after undergoing surgery on a muscle injury. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

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Troy Parrott has struggled to make an impact with Championship side Millwall. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Irish U-21 manager Jim Crawford has offered words of encouragement to promising strikers Troy Parrott, Michael Obafemi and Jonathan Afolabi after challenging spells in their respective careers for a variety of reasons.

Crawford was speaking after the draw for the 2023 European U-21 Championships pitted Ireland with Italy and Sweden again.

He acknowledges that Stephen Kenny's preferences will have an impact on the personnel available to him this year, with Derby midfielder Jason Knight likely to stay with the senior squad from this point onwards.

But it's possible that Crawford will get to work with Parrott again unless he hits form in a loan spell at Millwall.

The Spurs talent is still waiting for his first goal at Championship level.

"Troy needs a goal, he's still playing and doing well in general play but he just needs a goal to kick on," said Crawford. "I've worked with Troy at close quarters, he's a fantastic talent, an unbelievable finisher and you've got to give him time."

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Southampton's Michael Obafemi is set for a spell on the sidelines after undergoing surgery on a muscle injury. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Southampton's Michael Obafemi is set for a spell on the sidelines after undergoing surgery on a muscle injury. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Southampton's Michael Obafemi is set for a spell on the sidelines after undergoing surgery on a muscle injury. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Southampton's Obafemi is set for a spell on the sidelines after undergoing surgery on a muscle injury that scuppered a proposed January loan to Swansea. Prior to that, the 20-year-old had played just 19 minutes of football for his club this term which is far below expectations.

He had previously expressed his disappointment at missing out on Kenny's first squad.

Crawford detailed that Obafemi was in line to start for the Saints against Liverpool just days before his setback.

""He could have scored and who knows what would have happened," said Crawford, with Obafemi now on the recovery trail along with the promising midfielder Will Smallbone who faces an even longer spell out after suffering an ACL injury - a blow for both Crawford and Kenny.

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Celtic striker Jonathan Afolabi Afolabi is playing regularly on-loan at Dundee. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Celtic striker Jonathan Afolabi Afolabi is playing regularly on-loan at Dundee. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Celtic striker Jonathan Afolabi Afolabi is playing regularly on-loan at Dundee. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Celtic striker Afolabi is playing regularly on-loan at Dundee but had to deal with racist abuse after a League Cup game earlier this month with the player himself going public on what he received.

Crawford had an 'extensive chat' with the Dubliner about the episode.

"He did want to get the message out that there are some idiots out there who are not educated enough to realise we're all the same people.

"Thankfully it didn't hit him that hard. He's a fantastic character, a player with unbelievable ability and it was very brave of him to get the message out and let it be known there are still racist incidents in football."

Crawford was also coy about transfer speculation surrounding Stoke teenager Nathan Collins, the defender wanted by a host of Premier League clubs with Burnley having an initial bid knocked back because it didn't come near the £10m offer required before his current club will even open talks.

"I can't answer if he would go straight into some of the teams mentioned," said Crawford, "I'm looking at him playing every week for Stoke and he's developing very quickly. He's still a young boy but he is showing so many positive qualities and he will reach his potential for sure."


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