Liam Boyce has developed something of a reputation for taking things in his stride — which is why he refuses to be phased by talk of a sensational summer switch to Barcelona.
The Cliftonville striker has attracted the interest of a host of clubs across the continent this season but the news that Pep Guardiola’s world champions were tracking his progress shocked even Boyce’s most ardent admirers.
Even so, the teenage hitman refuses to get carried away.
“Hearing something like that was a bit mad, but you just have to put it to the back of your mind and get on with what you’re doing,” said the 19-year-old.
The keen video-gamer has even been teased about the prospect of his name flashing up alongside the likes of Messi, Ibrahimovic and Iniesta in next season’s PlayStation chart-toppers, but Boyce prefers instead to focus on the challenges immediately at hand.
“It’s been a good season for me and Cliftonville and now I’ve international matches with the under-19s to get myself ready for, so I can’t allow myself to get distracted by talk of a move to another club until something happens.”
Cliftonville’s top scorer has endured an arduous last few days en route to playing a part in the u19s’ 1-0 friendly victory over Wales on Wednesday night.
“We had a training camp in Birmingham the day before but our flight was cancelled because of the ash cloud so we had to travel by bus,” he explains.
“We drove from Belfast to Larne, got the boat across the Scotland and then another bus down to Birmingham.
“After the match, we caught the overnight boat from Wales and got back in the early hours of Thursday morning — which I spent at the doctors because of a problem with my tonsils.”
So you can imagine how delighted he was to learn of his first Carling Player of the Month award.
Boyce found the net in April victories over Crusaders, Portadown and Dungannon Swifts, as Cliftonville secured only their second top-two league finish for more than a century.
“It's been a good season for me and this award is a good way to round it off,” he adds. “It's always nice to be told you're doing the right things and to actually pick up an award for it is brilliant.”
Boss Eddie Patterson said: “I’m delighted for the kid.
“He’s probably been knocking on the door to be Player of the Month all season and it’s great for him to be acknowledged like this. It’s been a fantastic year for him and to score 19 goals in his first full season is a terrific return.
“We brought him up from the youth team, into the reserves and then gave him a wee taste of the first team in drips and drabs throughout last season.
“He was on the bench for the Irish Cup final and I think it was great for him to have that level of involvement so early in his career. This season, he’s been in the first team the whole way through and the interest that he’s generated tells its own story.
“It’s not just his goals tally that’s impressed, he works hard for the entire team and has maintained high performance levels. With young kids, you expect little dips in form here and there but there have honestly been more highs than lows with Liam this season.
“There are no airs and graces about him. He’s not arrogant and doesn’t even pretend to know it all. He’s always willing to listen and learn new things — not just from me and the coaching staff but from the more experienced strikers like Chris Scannell and Mark Holland.”