The League of Ireland has produced some quality players over the years that have impressed in England and developed into key players for the Republic of Ireland.
Shane Long, Kevin Doyle, James McClean, Wes Hoolahan. Just to name a few. While the domestic league is poorly advertised and perhaps the quality is not the best, to see it still produce some quality players that go on to have a successful career at a higher level will please the league’s die hard followers.
When Richie Towell’s 25 goals helped Dundalk to a League and Cup double last season, he got the big move overseas to promotion chasing Brighton. Many saw Towell as the next player to step up to the mark but he has struggled for game time with the Championship club.
Instead, it is former St. Patrick’s Athletic midfielder Chris Forrester who received a well deserved call up to Martin O’Neill’s provisional squad for the upcoming friendlies against Switzerland and Slovakia.
Forrester is highly rated at his current club, League One side Peterborough, where he has become a consistent performer in midfield and is already regarded as one the clubs best players in the middle of his first season at the club.
Most impressively, the 23 year old has had to adapt to a new position at a higher level.
With St Pats, Forrester was seen as very much an attacking midfielder where he either played as a number ten behind the striker or a winger as he gained a reputation for scoring some sensational goals.
However, he has been converted to a holding midfielder sitting in front of the back four. It is not easy to make the step up to a higher level – never mind changing your position at the same time. The fact that Forrester has excelled at this shows us his obvious quality. His versatility across midfield could be a huge attribute for the national team in the future.
Peterborough chairman Darragh MacAnthony has even already had to place a huge price tag on Forrester to ward off the interest of Championship clubs by claiming he is worth “way way over” £3 million. MacAnthony has even claimed Forrester is the best passer and even possibly best player he has ever signed, while also arguing he is better than current Ireland regular Jeff Hendrick.
Peterborough manager Graham Westley is a huge fan of Forrester and has even compared him to Manchester United stalwart Michael Carrick:
“There’s so much Michael Carrick in him it’s scary. You look at the likes of Carrick, an intelligent player, reads the game brilliantly well, owns, keeps and passes the ball in the right way – he’s got so many of the characteristics.
We’ve seen what he can do in terms of arriving in the box and scoring goals, we’ve seen his passing, he’s such a composed individual, he’s a cracking player.”
High praise indeed.
Forrester finally caught the eye during a live game in England as BBC showed Peterborough’s FA Cup replay defeat to West Brom. Speaking on BBC, Gary Lineker said:
“We’ve all been impressed (with Forrester). He’s got a delightful touch.”
Former Ireland international Kevin Kilbane added:
“He’s got a decent goalscoring record at League of Ireland level. He’s certainly impressive and what I like about him is his forward passing.”
Speaking about Forrester and his Norwegian team mate Martin Samuelson, Alan Shearer said:
“It’s their ability to take the ball under pressure but not being scared to get it… and that’s the sign of a good player. We’ve all been sat here very impressed with the both of them.”
There is no doubt that Forrester is an exciting prospect for the future and with his current form, Peterborough may struggle to hold onto him with Championship and even Premier League clubs being rumored to be keeping an eye on him.
While the Euros will most likely be too soon for Forrester, he could well regularly feature for Ireland over the next few years. The fact that Martin O’Neill has included him in his provisional squad along with the high praise he has been receiving is certainly encouraging.
There could be more to join him in the future, with Cork City striker Sean Maguire and Shamrock Rovers’ young playmaker Brandon Miele recently receiving call ups to the Republic of Ireland U-21 squad.