Irish involvement likely to be sparse in new Premier League season

Realistically only four players at three clubs can expect first team football this season

Séamus Coleman tackles Daniel James during a friendly at Old Trafford last weekend. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Séamus Coleman tackles Daniel James during a friendly at Old Trafford last weekend. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

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Statistics on the Irish at Premier League clubs are undeniably grim. Of 22 players spread across 12 clubs only four - Séamus Coleman at Everton, Matt Doherty at Spurs and Ciaran Clark and Jeff Hendrick at Newcastle United - can expect regular first team football.

And that is being generous to Coleman and Doherty who will be under pressure to keep the right back slots under new management. Nor are Hendrick and Clark nailed on starters at St James’ Park.

There is no way to dress this up. Clark, with 22 appearances last season, played the most of any Irish qualified player in the top flight. At least five of the list are pushing for a move to the Championship or League One before the transfer deadline on August 31st.

It is possible that five Irish players might feature during West Ham United’s trip to Newcastle

Southampton trio Shane Long, Michael Obafemi and Will Smallbone neatly cover three primary categories; reserve, leaving and injured.

Saints manager Ralph Hasenhüttl added three attackers in Theo Walcott, Armando Broja on loan from Chelsea and Adam Armstrong, who scored 28 goals for Blackburn Rovers in last season’s Championship, to replace Danny Ings, who was one of three players Aston Villa signed with the £100 million Manchester City paid them for Jack Grealish.

Obafemi is expected to replace Armstrong at Blackburn, while Smallbone is coming back from a snapped cruciate ligament. Long, who is reportedly on £60,000 a week with a contract that runs into 2022, was widely expected to be sold this summer but the 34-year-old and Obafemi both started last week’s pre-season friendly against Atlético Madrid.

Contract extension

Southampton travel to Goodison Park this afternoon where Coleman, having agreed a contract extension to play under Rafa Benitez until 2023, is expected to make his 300th Premier League appearance.

In better times, Burnley at home to Brighton would feature a gang of Irish internationals but the game could conceivably start with none. Nathan Collins, after moving from Stoke City for €17 million, will eventually make his Burnley debut, possibly at fullback, until he can nudge past established centre halves Ben Mee and James Tarkowski.

“I felt for my progress as a footballer this was the best chance that I had to break through,” Collins told The Sunday Times.

The sight of Shane Duffy and Aaron Connolly in Brighton colours would be a genuine boost for Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny ahead of the World Cup qualifiers in September.

Nathan Collins could make a first Premier League appearance for Burnley. Photo: Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images
Nathan Collins could make a first Premier League appearance for Burnley. Photo: Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Same goes for whatever exposure Liverpool give Caoimhín Kelleher behind number one goalkeeper Alisson Becker, especially considering Alex Bass is keeping Gavin Bazunu benched at Portsmouth.

“Look at Caoimhín though,” said Virgil van Dijk at preseason training. “Absolutely flames. He’s playing like Dida, from the Brazil team.”

The 2019/20 champions open their campaign at Carrow Road against a Norwich City side that is not expected to include Leixlip teenager Andrew Omobamidele or Cork striker Adam Idah.

With Finnish front man Teemu Pukki in isolation and Josh Sargent yet to arrive from Werder Bremen, Idah had two chances against Gillingham last week. The 20-year-old took them both.

“It is good but Gillingham is not Liverpool and Adam still has to learn a lot,” said Canaries manager Daniel Farke. “He has to learn about what is required with his back to goal, how to keep the ball, how to press the defender, his work to run the channels and to realise the gaps where he has to sprint to make the overall team better.

“He has those skills, and I have mentioned before he is a natural born goal scorer. Look at the first goal, it was the striker’s instinct to feel a bit where the ball from Todd Cantwell could land and he has that natural gift - you simply cannot learn to be in the right place.

Adam Idah will hope to force his way into the Norwich team. Photo: James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images
Adam Idah will hope to force his way into the Norwich team. Photo: James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

“The second goal was a perfect touch and finish. A great goal. He is a really good player, but we are working with him on a daily basis to make him even better.”

If Idah can break into the team he will play alongside Scottish prodigy Billy Gilmour, on loan from Chelsea after lighting up Wembley during the drawn Euros game against England.

“There were also periods in that game where I am not happy,” Farke added, “even though he scores two more goals. But from him we also demand consistency and we hope he stays fit and injury-free. That is quite important so that he can stay in his rhythm. So far, so good during preseason but he still has a few steps to go.”

It is also possible that five Irish players might feature during West Ham United’s trip to Newcastle, with Clark and Hendrick set to start against a West Ham outfit that will almost certainly not include Darren Randolph, Mipo Abubeko or current Ireland under-21 captain Conor Coventry.

Connor Ronan, another Kenny favourite when under-21 manager, returned to Wolves this summer having broken a metatarsal bone in his foot during a loan stint at Swiss club Grasshooper. Yet another who fits into the reserve, leaving, injured categories.

Irish Premier League players

Newcastle United
Ciaran Clark
Centre back
Age: 31
Caps: 36
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 22 (1,893 minutes)

Jeff Hendrick
Midfielder
Age: 29
Caps: 62
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 22 (1,424 minutes)

Tottenham Hotspur
Matt Doherty
Right back
Age: 29
Caps: 20
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 17 (1,228 minutes)

Everton
Séamus Coleman
Right back
Age: 32
Caps: 59
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 25 (1,612 minutes)

Southampton
Shane Long
Striker
Age: 34
Caps: 88
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 11 (201 minutes)

Michael Obafemi
Striker
Age: 21
Caps: 1
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 4 (57 minutes)

Will Smallbone
Midfielder
Age: 21
Caps: 0
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 3 (173 minutes)

Brighton & Hove Albion
Aaron Connolly
Striker
Age: 21
Caps: 6
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 17 (790 minutes)

Shane Duffy
Centre back
Age: 29
Caps: 44
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 0

Jayson Molumby
Midfield
Age: 22
Caps: 9
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 0

Burnley
Nathan Collins
Centre back
Age: 20
Caps: 0
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 0

Kevin Long
Defender
Age: 30
Caps: 17
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 8 (636 minutes)

Norwich City
Andrew Omobamidele
Centre back
Age: 19
Caps: 0
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 0*

Adam Idah
Striker
Age: 20
Caps: 7
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 0*

Wolverhampton Wanderers
Connor Ronan
Midfield
Age: 23
Caps: 0
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 0

Lewis Richards
Centre back
Age: 19
Caps: 0
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 0

West Ham United
Darren Randolph
Goalkeeper
Age: 34
Caps: 50
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 3 (270 minutes)

Conor Coventry
Midfielder
Age: 21
Caps: 0
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 0

Mipo Odubeko
Striker
Age: 18
Caps: 0
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 0

Aston Villa
Conor Hourihane
Midfielder
Age: 30
Caps: 26
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 4 (228 minutes)

Watford
Rob Elliot
Goalkeeper
Age: 35
Caps: 4
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 0*

Liverpool
Caoimhín Kelleher
Goalkeeper
Age: 22
Caps: 1
Premier League appearances in 2020/21: 2 (180 minutes)

*promoted

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