Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Northern Ireland's goal hero Corry Evans content to bide his time

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A star was born in Maribor and that star’s name was Corry Evans.

When you look at Corry you simply see a boy — and he’s just a boy aged 20 — but look deeper and you’ll understand some of the sacrifices Northern Ireland’s best young footballing talent have to make to hit the big time.

They say it’s tough going to university for a new adventure but Corry had to leave high school in his first year when the Evans family moved to Manchester.

Corry and his older brother Jonny (22) have learned from an early age that you can’t realise your dreams without working hard.

It should be Northern Ireland’s motto — given the shortage of players we have to select from — and it has certainly been the motto of the Evans family.

Proud father Jackie, who lost his job in Shorts before bringing the boys to Manchester to chase their footballing dreams, always believed in their ability.

And Manchester United shared that belief — the club recognises promising talent when it arrives at Old Trafford.

Manager Sir Alex Ferguson, though, also likes to assess the character of young men and Corry and Jonny are quite simply two lads who love playing football and want to improve.

Jonny has always offered Corry advice as he follows in his footsteps at the Theatre of Dreams and that’s why it’s a crying shame Jonny wasn’t on the pitch when his younger sibling marked his first competitive Northern Ireland appearance by scoring the winner in Slovenia.

As glorious as the moment was for Corry, it will remain bitter-sweet as Jonny was warming the bench nursing a groin injury and didn’t feature in the Euro 2012 qualifying opener.

“Jonny failed a late fitness test but although he is disappointed he didn’t play I’m sure he’s proud I scored the winner,” said Corry.

“Jonny has now established himself in the Manchester United team and I can learn from his experience as his loan moves really helped his career.

“A lot of the lads from the reserves have done that and a few now like (Danny) Welbeck (Sunderland) and Tom Cleverley (at Wigan) have all benefited from that.”

A change of scenery now awaits for Corry when the loan window opens but his career to date is already a remarkable story.

United, as if often the case when it comes to the best young talent, were quick out of the blocks to snap up Corry.

Before moving to England, he began his career with Greenisland Boys, where Craig Cathcart — who put his winning strike on a plate on Friday night — also played before joining United.

If he had stayed in Northern Ireland, he wouldn’t have been able to sign forms for any club, but United got his signature on their under-14 academy forms — tying him to the club until the age of 16.

His development continued as he received a trainee contract on his 16th birthday.

It wasn’t only at the club where Corry experienced a settling in period.

At his new school, the air was thick with English accents.

But Corry had always been encouraged by his older brother’s progress and the support of his family.

“It was hard when we first moved,” said Corry. “Having to move across to a different school and a new school was my biggest concern.

“My dad had confidence in my ability, but he said that either way it was going to be good for my football and that I would improve because I would get better coaching and that would happen at any academy.

“I would be playing more times a week and at a better standard. He tried to reassure me and looking back it has helped me a lot being at United from such an early age instead of only moving at 16.

“With a manager like Sir Alex Ferguson and a club like Manchester United you know that down the years they have always given young players a chance.”

Corry excelled at centre-back for United's Reserves in the 2008/09 campaign, making 22 appearances for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side and he was shortlisted for the Reserves Player of the Year prize.

He signed professional forms on August 18 last year and was handed the number 31 shirt.

He donned the captain’s armband for the reserves and made a few appearances on the bench for the first team, including a Carling Cup outing against Barnsley and Premier League clash at Hull City.

But Jonny isn’t the only player who is teaching Corry the tricks of the trade.

Rubbing shoulders with the likes of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes also has its advantages.

Corry went on United’s pre-season tour of America and he added: “I learned so much from that experience.

“The way the likes of ‘Scholesy’ and ‘Giggsy’ handle themselves on and off the pitch is fantastic and a great example for us. It’s good to be around Jonny but it’s also great mingling with the other great players.”

At international level, Corry competed for the under-16, under-17, under-19 and under-21 sides.

He made his senior debut against Italy in Pisa last year but after five friendly outings, he announced his arrival on the big stage in spectacular style.

With Jonny already a familiar face in the first team, the Evans brothers could still achieve the same success the Neville siblings enjoyed at United.

But that’s a question for the future. Right now, Corry is happy to be “going in the right direction”.

After his heroics in Maribor, clubs at home and abroad will be queuing up to roll out the welcome mat for him.

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