Belfast Telegraph

Show Northern Ireland's young footballers respect

Professional approach is needed to keep players' dreams alive

Climbing the ladder: Jordan Stewart has got his big move to Swindon Town, following in the footsteps of Liam Boyce who went to Ross County, Rory Donnelly, who is now at Gillingham, and Joe Gormley, now at Peterborough United
Climbing the ladder: Jordan Stewart has got his big move to Swindon Town, following in the footsteps of Liam Boyce who went to Ross County, Rory Donnelly, who is now at Gillingham, and Joe Gormley, now at Peterborough United

By Graham Luney

Up until last Wednesday, not many Irish League fans knew who Lee Power was.

But when the Swindon Town chairman gave his opinion on the Jordan Stewart negotiations, I nearly spat out my Frosties.

Power referred to the talks as "messy", "not very professional" and involving "every Tom, Dick and Harry".

Tom Dick resigned as the Glentoran Director of Football in 2007. Maybe the Harry was Prince Harry as they like the royals in the east. It could even be One Direction's Harry Styles as he's looking for a career move.

Power's comments were clearly a dig at Glentoran and Jordan's agent but I think he needs to look up the dictionary definition of 'professional'.

It may have momentarily escaped the Town chairman's attention that his club had just been hit by a £1,000 fine and severely warned over their future conduct after they accepted a charge from the Football Association for illegally approaching Jermaine Hylton, a striker from Southern League club Redditch United.

The League One side admitted they approached the player before informing his club.

United chairman Chris Swan blasted: "What Swindon have done is tantamount to theft." People in glass houses...

All clubs, regardless of their size and whether they are amateur or not, should endeavour to conduct themselves in a professional manner.

Swindon Town were upset at having to negotiate with different people but when a high profile move is in the offing for a player then agents are going to be involved.

And who can criticise Glentoran for wanting to secure appropriate financial reward for letting go of one of Northern Ireland's best young players?

Glentoran not only gave the kid the platform to show what he can do, they helped polish the gem and it was only a matter of time before a potential buyer was seduced by the sparkle.

An offer from Barnsley wasn't enough for the Glens to think twice and they were right to knock it back as Swindon showed a greater commitment to sign the player.

The backdrop to the negotiations was the breakdown in working relations between Jordan's agent Lee Mudd and Glentoran following the Barnsley interest and hopefully all sides will have learned lessons.

The rules should be clear - it's the agent's job to generate interest in a player. It's the selling club's responsibility to come to a financial agreement with the buying club incorporating a fee and any add-ons.

Some fans may even be surprised to learn that an Irish League player has an agent but several young performers recognise the benefits of having one to raise awareness of their talent.

While all of this was going on it was easy to have sympathy for Jordan, a young lad with immense talent who simply wants to live his dream.

Young players from Northern Ireland have a difficult enough challenge when it comes to making it in England or Scotland.

Kids from here have to leave family and friends and develop in physically and mentally demanding environments. Possessing talent isn't enough - it's an enormous test of character as well. I'll never forget the story of George Best returning home from Manchester after feeling homesick. Thankfully, he was able to conquer it and the rest is glorious history.

The progress of players like Rory Donnelly, Liam Boyce, Joe Gormley and now Jordan proves that kids don't have to leave for England or Scotland at the earliest opportunity.

Irish League clubs have never attached more importance to youth development and the standard of coaching they receive is very high.

On a personal level I'm thrilled for Jordan who must have been disheartened after the Barnsley interest - along with trials at Stoke City, Middlesbrough and Peterborough - came to nothing.

And when the Swindon switch appeared to stall he must have been losing hope. It's easy for us to say keep the faith when we aren't rocked by setback after setback.

All we ask of clubs such as Ross County, Peterborough United and Swindon Town is to treat our boys with respect and help them realise their potential.

As we send our best wishes to Jordan we also hope Swindon will give him all the support and encouragement he needs - after all, this kid is no ordinary Tom, Dick or Harry.

Belfast Telegraph


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