NI starlets should strive to emulate Man United's Paddy McNair
Manchester United’s young star Paddy McNair has been put forward as the player the boys representing Northern Ireland in the inaugural Club NI International Cup should be trying to emulate.
The 19-year-old from Ballyclare made both his United and Northern Ireland debuts last season, just a few years after coming through the Irish FA’s old County Excellence programme.
Now, under the new Club NI structure, young players of the age McNair was when he was first spotted by United are being given their first taste of international football.
The Club NI International Cup sees Everton and Rangers send their top kids to Northern Ireland, as well as boys who are full-time at the French Football Federation’s regional centre in Toulouse, to take on the local players.
“Paddy McNair is a great example,” said IFA youth development officer Pascal Vaudequin.
“He is a role model because his attitude and his work rate in training was excellent when I first saw him at 12 or 13 years of age.
“He has gone on and made it into the Premier League — and he has done it with one of the biggest clubs in the world, which is fantastic for him.
“I believe that there will be more like Paddy because the boys we are working with now are better prepared for going to professional clubs in England and Scotland.”
Part of that preparation is competing in tournaments like this week’s event at Greenmount Campus and the IFA already have early plans in place to bring it back next year, with major European names in the pipeline.
“One of the objectives of the programme is to make these players ready if they do get picked up by a professional club,” added Vaudequin.
“We decided that we needed to do that by not only putting them up against Academy teams in England or select teams from the Republic but overseas teams. Playing against foreign opposition is key for them. They need to experience playing against different styles.
“We then needed to be proactive in organising tournaments, rather than relying on others.”
Fixtures: Thursday August 27: Club NI v France FF Toulouse (7pm). Friday August 28: France FF Toulouse v Rangers (7pm). Saturday August 29: Club NI v Rangers (9.30am), Everton v Toulouse (2.30pm), Rangers v Everton (7pm). Sunday August 30: Club NI v Everton (3.30pm).