Belfast Telegraph

Jordan Stewart's a star of the future

By Stuart McKinley

While Northern Ireland are facing Turkey in the little known city of Adana this evening Jordan Stewart will be relaxing at home in south Belfast.

His mind will be dominated by thoughts of wearing a different green shirt tomorrow afternoon, rather than events a couple of thousand miles away.

Making an impact in the Glentoran first team is all that the 18-year-old is thinking about at present.

Small in stature, Stewart has a big reputation at the east Belfast club and if Glens manager Eddie Patterson's expectations come true that will all change in the future.

It will be at Windsor Park rather than the Oval that the teenage protege will be doing his stuff, but before Glentoran fans start to worry that one of their most talented youngsters is about to head off to Linfield, Patterson is boldly predicting that an international career awaits for Stewart – provided he maintains his early potential.

"Jordan is such a talent and if he continues to improve he will be one for the future for Michael O'Neill – without a doubt," said Patterson.

Not prone to making such bold statements, when Patterson says somethings like that you know that it's not just cheap talk, especially as he sees Stewart at close quarters in training every week.

And the impression he made on the manager led to the teenagers being fast-tracked into the Glens first team even before Patterson anticipated he would.

Stewart didn't figure in the Europa League matches against KR of Iceland in July – in fact he wasn't even registered with Uefa to play in the games.

He was on Patterson's radar though and just days after scoring a dramatic late equaliser for Stephen Craigan's Northern Ireland under-19s against Scotland in August he was quickly brought into the first team for his debut against Glenavon just days later in the third league match of the season.

The next game was a Big Two match against Linfield. With the game locked at 0-0 Patterson turned to his bench and although the more experienced Jordan Hughes was there, it was Stewart that he threw on. Although the game finished deadlocked that was a decision which showed a degree of faith in the promising youngster.

"He was with the reserves all last season and we brought him up to the first team at the start of the season," said Patterson (pictured).

"The idea was to get him used to the tempo of first team football and get used to the first team players around him and what we would do.

"He has adapted to that brilliantly."

Stewart really announced his arrival on the big stage last month when he score two goals in the Glens 4-3 win over Ballymena United at the Showgrounds.

"He is an exciting wee player," said Patterson after that game.

Before he could leave that day Stewart was quickly handed a pen to sign a new two-and-a-half year contract with the Glens.

That chain of events is not quite as romantic as it might sound though.

The player's parents had been brought to the game by Patterson with the intention of tying up the deal anyway, such had been his contribution before then.

It just so happened that he picked the perfect day to justify the manager's faith and belief in him.

Patterson has put plenty of faith in young players during his career. It's the way the Glens have to go, but saying that budget cuts are only reason that youth is getting it's chance would be doing a disservice to the manager's own record.

He has previous in that area.

It was Patterson who brought Liam Boyce into the Cliftonville first team when he was only 17, before he headed to Werder Bremen and made four senior international appearances for Northern Ireland.

He was also responsible for the early development of Rory Donnelly, handing the striker his debut for the Reds a full year before he was snapped up by Swansea City – who were under the management of Brendan Rodgers at the time.

Glentoran's record of preparing players for international football isn't too bad either.

Andy Smith actually won most of his caps while still at the Oval, but before him Andy Kirk and Stuart Elliott made international debuts shortly after leaving the east Belfast club for full-time football in Scotland.

There are hopes that Stewart could be the next one, but as a tricky customer, Patterson fears that he could be targeted by defenders

"The way he played against Dungannon Swifts last week, if you were playing against him you'd have wanted to just kick him into the stand," said Patterson.

"He has a good stature about him, people bounce off him and he's a very strong wee boy.

"He's just a talent and we're delighted to have him at the club."

Belfast Telegraph


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