Ben Reeves: An honour to play for Northern Ireland
Published 04/03/2014 | 01:30
Northern Ireland's new kid on the block Ben Reeves has revealed how "proud and ecstatic" he was to receive the call from manager Michael O'Neill.
The 22-year-old Milton Keynes Dons midfielder, who qualifies to play for Northern Ireland through his granny from Kesh, is in line to make his debut in tomorrow's friendly in Cyprus and is relishing the opportunity.
Having met and trained with the squad for the first time, the youngster has quickly settled in with the help of captain Steven Davis, who played with Reeves at Southampton.
"I was ecstatic when I got the call to join the squad. My family felt the same way," said Reeves.
"To get a chance to play international football would be unbelievable. It would also be an honour to represent Northern Ireland. I would feel proud to do that.
"My nan is from Fermanagh and a lot of my mum's side still live over there.
"I always knew there was a chance for me to play for Northern Ireland. I told my agent as soon as I signed for him that I had the connection and he made the call. I was at Southampton when the first contact was made."
O'Neill followed the youngster's progress when in the summer he moved to League One outfit MK Dons, where he has shone this season, scoring and creating goals.
"I spoke to the MK Dons manager Karl Robinson about the opportunity and he invited Michael and his assistant Billy McKinley to come and see me. We had a long chat and it went well. They were telling me about the squad, easing me into the situation and making me feel comfortable," added Reeves.
"I also got great feedback from my club mate Lee Hodson, with him saying how good the set-up was and how easy everyone makes it to settle in. That's the way it's been.
"I trained with Steven Davis at Southampton, so it was good to know him when I was coming into the squad and meeting a lot of new people. He's an easy guy to get on with, everyone likes Steven."
If Reeves, who feels training and playing at international level can make him a better player, produces the type of form in the years ahead for Northern Ireland that he has been delivering at club level recently, he'll become a popular figure himself.
On his favourite position, he says: "I prefer to play as a number 10 and I've been able to do that this season. I've also played in central midfield and on the right wing cutting inside. I even played a couple of games at left-back at Southampton."
The Southampton experience, coming through their respected Academy system, should stand him in good stead.
He said: "They've got the whole of the south coast to pick from and some really good coaching staff. That's why they're producing such good players," said Reeves, in reference to the latest crop of homegrown talent at Southampton which includes England World Cup hopefuls Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana.
"When I was first in the squad Southampton were in League One, but going up the divisions. When I got to that age of wanting to make a breakthrough they were beginning to buy players for lots of money, so it was harder to break in.
"I was starting to feel better under Nigel Adkins but it didn't quite work out for me under Mauricio Pochettino."
Perhaps for the better now that he is a star on the rise at MK Dons and could play a key role in Northern Ireland's 2016 European Championship qualifying campaign.