All you need to know about Sean Scannell and Niall Keown as duo close in on Northern Ireland switch
Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill could soon see his panel bolstered by two more English-born recruits.
Huddersfield Town midfielder Sean Scannell and Partick Thistle defender Niall Keown, who have both represented the Republic of Ireland at Under 21 level, are interested in switching their allegiances to NI. Scannell has already submitted his paperwork to FIFA and could make his debut in Northern Ireland's UEFA Nations League campaign.
But just what exactly do we know about the pair?
All you need to know about Sean Scannell
Club: Huddersfield Town
How he qualifies for Northern Ireland: Sean's dad is from County Armagh
International experience: Scannell has played for the Republic of Ireland at Under 17, Under 21 and B international level. He was also called up to senior squads under Martin O'Neill's predecessor Giovanni Trappatoni but never made a senior appearance and so is elligible to switch nations. He could, in theory, play for England (the county of his birth) or Jamaica, due to his Jamaican heritage.
Club career: He is Huddersfield's longest-serving current player, having signed for the club in 2012. He's been a loyal player to both his current and his previous employers. He's only had two clubs and stayed at previous club Crystal Palace for nine years. Scannell spent the first half of last season on loan at Burton but that stint ended in January because of a groin injury. He went on to make just one substitute appearance for Town this season, coming on during extra-time in their FA Cup victory over Birmingham in February.
What can he do? Well if we look back to the 14/15 season, he was named Huddersfield's Players' Player of the Year. Here are his highlights from that campaign:
Off the pitch: Scannell was recognised by the Professional Footballers' Association as Community Player of the Year at the end of the 16/17 season. That came for his effort at Huddersfield's breakfast clubs and soccer schools. "He understands what an impact footballers can have on youngsters; he felt the same way when footballers visited his school or area down in Croydon. I have no doubt that he’s made a big impact on many children in our area too," said Huddersfield's Community Head of Football and Sport, Rob Day.
All you need to know about Niall Keown
Club: Partick Thistle
How he qualifies for Northern Ireland: Niall's grandfather is from Fermanagh. His grandmother is from Galway.
Famous family: Yes, he is related to Martin. The former Arsenal and England defender is Niall's dad. And it's Martin's parents who are from Ireland, meaning he could have played for either of the Ireland teams too. Niall says his dad got "a lot of stick" for choosing England instead.
International experience: Niall was once named as back-up for an England Under 18 squad but said it was the 'natural' decision to instead opt to represent Republic of Ireland when he declared for the nation back in 2015. However, in the three years since, he has appeared just twice in a green jersey. Both of those came for the RoI U21 side in March 2016.
Club career: Keown began his career at Reading, joining the club's Academy back in 2011, aged 16, and made his debut for the first team four years later. It was a brief appearance, introduced as an injury-time substitute in the 2-1 Championship win over Brighton but it promised to yield much more, not least when he penned a three-year deal at the club just four months later. Fast forward 18 months and Keown, having picked up just one more senior appearance (a start in a 4-1 defeat to Watford four days after his substitute outing), the defender was sent out to Partick Thistle on loan. After 14 Scottish Premiership starts and six clean sheets, Keown joined Partick permanently last summer and started 30 Premiership games this season as his side were relegated to the Championship via play-off defeat to Livingston on Sunday.
What can he do? Well it would seem he's of value at both ends of the pitch - as shown earlier in the season when he netted the winner for Partick Thistle against Hamilton, having earlier made a goal-saving block. Have a look right here:
Belfast Telegraph Digital