Jason Knight just glad to be centre stage for club and country

‘I want to play my best for the club. And when I come away with Ireland it is the same’

Jason Knight has only gone and landed himself in the same opening paragraph as George Clooney.

“Derby has a great football club with a fantastic history and I am sure there is a great future too,” the Goodnight, and Good Luck director told Derbyshire Life magazine. “I know that there have been problems but nothing cannot be fixed and under the circumstances the team has been working really hard and playing well.”

Problems – administration and the docking of 21 points – that would demand the full attention of Danny Ocean and Michael Clayton. Clooney's quote, coupled with a consortium potentially buying Malaga FC in 2020, prompted the UK media to run wild with the idea that The American intends to absolve The Rams of their financial woes.

“I have worked with quite a few British football fans and their moods were often dependent on how well their favourite soccer team had performed in their latest game,” said Clooney. “I found it quite curious and wanted to know what made that happen.”


Well, George, take a stroll around Ballsbridge and Ringsend last Saturday night for more curious delights. The mood was positively ebullient by mid-afternoon with one veteran follower of the boys in green offering prescient comment on the Dart.

“Ogbene is just so exciting to watch but this Knight guy at Derby is going to be a great player. Oh and Festy Ebosele looks decent too.”

Ebosele was redirected to Jim Crawford's under-21 squad for Tuesday's match in Sweden (live on RTÉ) so Knight was cheerily dismissive when his teenage club-mate's imminent move to Udinese in Italy was mentioned.

“I don’t know!” he laughed. “It’s an interesting move, I hope it goes really well for him, but I don’t know how it will go for him.”

Knight was equally perplexed at efforts to move beyond his adrenaline-fuelled performance, harassing quality Belgium opponents into error, with reminders of Derby's impending relegation to League One.

"I enjoyed tonight. A packed Aviva is something I have dreamt of playing in. I am just trying to prioritise Ireland at the moment and play the best for the country."

The polite answer screamed ‘what more do you people want!’ after the same attacking trio who wiped the floor with Luxembourg last November reunited to ask Belgium some genuine questions.

“I have played with Callum [Robinson]and Chieo [Ogbene] quite a bit now. It is quite a fluid relationship and we are good mates off the pitch. That helps a lot.”

One moment, just after half-time, stands out. Knight, at the tip of Ireland's high pressing spear, forces former Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet into a risky pass from the end line. Be it arrogance or supreme confidence, Belgium seeks to tiki-taka their way out of trouble but Séamus Coleman intercepts Dedryck Boyata's casual ball towards Hans Vanaken.

Knight lets Coleman’s pass run across his body before hooking a perfect delivery for Robinson to score. Youri Tielemans’s last-ditch intervention redirects play towards James McClean, who bangs a poor shot off Robinson’s heel as Belgium survive as 48,808 people consume the drama and regurgitate their feelings with the same deep-throated groan.

That’s what makes it happen, George.

“That’s something the manager brought in when he first came in,” Knight explained of this put ’em under pressure renaissance. “It takes a lot of energy, it takes a lot of desire, but when you do it right and it comes off it looks really well.

“Obviously at times tonight, Belgium are a good team, they can get out of it, but for the majority we pressed really well and got really good chances out of it.”

Ireland got two clean goals out of it, but mostly Knight was asked about Derby County and Wayne Rooney somehow avoiding the drop.

“It is obviously a difficult situation at Derby, we are still trying to get out of it, I want to play my best for the club. And when I come away with Ireland it is the same, I am just trying to do my best, and try and keep myself in the team as much as I can.

“The gaffer at Derby has been a great player but he has been a really, really good coach for me so far, giving little snippets of advice. And I am trying to take that day by day, like I say, just to improve.”

Rooney, who was already gloves-off tabloid fodder at Knight’s age, readily offers his deep well of knowledge to help the 21-year-old Dubliner evolve into a No 6, a No 8 or even a rotating centre forward in Kenny’s increasingly fluid Irish team.

“I think there is great character in this squad, from dealing with setbacks, we have gone through tough times as a squad. And I think to come through those times we built a big, big character. Obviously we went a goal down, after starting the game well, really well, and that can be a sucker punch but we got through it.”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent