After a strong individual finish in what has been a phenomenal season, John Egan has reminded us what a meteoric rise he has enjoyed.
Despite a red card against Newcastle, the Cork man has picked up where he left off after lockdown. Egan look like one of the best players on the pitch against Tottenham Hotspur. He showed what a loss he was in the Blades’ defeat against Manchester United, and, finally, managed to get on the scoresheet against both Burnley and Wolves.
Egan has been impressive overall in his debut top-flight season, earning plaudits from both the British and the Irish media, which speaks volumes of his rapid adjustment.
For Irish fans, Egan is becoming something of a cult hero for with the 27-year-old constantly mentioned throughout the season by fans and pundits alike.
A physically dominant defender, Egan has become known for his brilliance in the air and leadership skills. He was a prolific goal-scoring defender with Gillingham and then developed his game with Brentford. The ex-Sunderland trainee was compared to a young Richard Dunne.
It seems strange that he only has eight international caps to his name, given his undoubted talent. However, that will no doubt continue to multiply rapidly over the next several years.
Egan is a key cog in a unique Sheffield United system.
Chris Basham and Jack O’Connell are let off the shackles to get forward and act almost like an extra layer of fullbacks. Egan is the glue that holds their back three together and gets the best out of the aforementioned duo.
Both of whom have been tipped for outside PFA Team of the Year places, alongside Virgil Van Dijk, who is undoubtedly going to be named as the first centre half on the team.
However, it is Egan who’s statistics, in addition to him passing the all-important eye test, suggest that he could be more than in the running to be named as one of the centre-halves.
Although he trails Van Dijk statistically overall, the 27-year-old has conceded five fewer goals than the Liverpool man (32) while on the pitch and has completed 21 more tackles (44) than the Dutchman.
Both are level on clearances with the boot (161) with Van Dijk marginally ahead in headed clearances (82 to 75). It shows that in terms of key defensive statistics, not a lot separates the two.
Sheffield United are joint third for the best defensive record in the Premier League and Egan is undoubtedly a huge cog in this success, especially given the openness in which the Blades defence play.
However, when it comes down to selection in the PFA Team of the Year, there will be arguments for the inclusion of Johnny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu.
The Leicester City pair have both been instrumental in their club’s success this season and statistically have had a better season than Egan.
In fact, if the selection was based solely on statistics, the likes of Jan Bednarek, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee and Tyrone Mings would exceed Egan in several areas, albeit marginally.
However, this isn’t the case and given Egan’s visible dominance, leadership and even just the sheer impressiveness of performances in what is his debut Premier League season, other factors could certainly work in the former Brentford player’s favour.
Egan was an excellent player even before making his mark in the Premier League, but has finally shown what he can do on a much bigger stage. This has lead to Stephen Kenny suggesting the Cork man will be key to the way his Ireland team play.
Egan’s rise deserves recognition and if he were to be selected in the end-of-season XI it should not come as too much of a shock.
Despite the undoubted competition, Egan has to at least be considered given the overall impact he and Sheffield United have had on the Premier League this season.
The success of Sheffield United as a unit could propel him further up the pecking order in addition to closely matching the stats with shoo-in Virgil Van Dijk.
Should he be included, he will be the first Irish player since Seamus Coleman to be selected when the Ireland and Everton skipper was part of the 2013/14 side.
All statistics are taken from premierleague.com and transfermarkt.com