Introducing Taylor Gardner-Hickman…
There’s a new name on the West Bromwich Albion teamsheet this month and he’s keen to play for Ireland. 19-year-old full-back Taylor Gardner-Hickman made his Baggies debut back in August and recent performances have now set him up for a big 2022.
English-born Gardner-Hickman has been at West Brom since he was seven-years-old and played Premier League 2 football for the last three seasons in their under-23 side. A versatile player, the West Brom website explains that Taylor can play right-back, left-back and in centre-midfield. His two first team appearances for the Championship outfit came at right-wing-back, filling in for the injured Darnell Furlong.
Taylor Gardner-Hickman set to declare for Ireland?
Although Ireland are blessed with centre-back options, adding a talented wing-back would certainly give Stephen Kenny’s side a boost. Seamus Coleman, Matt Doherty, James McClean and Enda Stevens are reliable options in the short-term, but an influx of wide-men would not go astray. Festy Ebosele (19, Derby), Tayo Adaramola (17, Crystal Palace) and Sean Roughan (17, Lincoln) are currently showing the most promise in the Irish underage ranks but the injection of quality that Gardner-Hickman would provide can’t be ignored.
The aforementioned Ebosele is playing at the highest level of any of Ireland’s up and coming full-backs, and he’s on the books of Championship strugglers Derby County who will all but definitely be relegated to League One at the end of the season. West Brom on the other hand, look on course for a Premier League return and should Gardner Hickman establish himself as a starter as the season progresses, it would be great news for both the player and Ireland.
While there are plenty of “potential” successors to Ireland’s experienced fullbacks, it’s easy to understand why securing the services of a Championship/Premier League defender would be so attractive. The other good news is that he has never represented England at underage level and further to the point, he accepted an Ireland under-19 call-up in 2019. I also understand that his grandparents are fully Irish.
A source close to the player told Kenny’s Kids that Gardner-Hickman wants to play for Ireland but is “having a nightmare” acquiring a passport. The defender has of course been on the FAI’s radar for a while now but his starring performance against Huddersfield Town last week means the association will be doubly determined not to let him slip through the net.
The teenager won nine defensive duals, took three shots, created one big chance and completed 77% of his passes against the Terriers. While in his start against Hull on the 4th of November, he was equally as impressive: “The teenager performed as well as he could possibly have hoped for with a display of confidence and poise”, wrote The Athletic’s Steve Madeley.
Long live the Irish wing-back.
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