Jordan Stewart can go all the way to top, says Glentoran pal Clarke
Richard Clarke has expressed a hope that Glentoran's teenage sensation Jordan Stewart will get the opportunity to fulfil his full-time dream.
The Glens midfielder, like everyone else, has looked on in awe as the Oval starlet has lit up the Danske Bank Premiership this season. A real livewire and tricky to mark, fans hold their breath in anticipation when Stewart has the ball at his feet.
The 18-year-old is also capable of producing a wonder strike with that incredible long-range effort at Ballinamallard United winning applause across the world when footage of it went viral.
Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill has expressed his concern that not enough promising talent is emerging in the Irish League but sparkling gems such as Stewart and Glenavon's Rhys Marshall have caught the eye of cross-channel scouts.
Stewart, a product of the Glentoran Academy, is at the beginning of his career so bigger clubs may be tempted to polish this rough diamond.
However, the Glens encouraged him to pen a new two-and-a-half year deal and he will continue to hone his skills on the domestic stage.
Clarke, though, believes the kid is destined for bigger things.
"It's no coincidence that the team's form picked up when Jordan came in and started playing so well," said the former Northern Ireland under-21 ace.
"He's a young lad who doesn't lack confidence and that's a good thing. That's what makes him the player he is. I think every top player needs to have that confidence and belief that there is something special about them.
"They don't have any fear and some of his goals have been exceptional. He has ambitions of a full-time career and I hope he makes it. You always like to see young players get the chance they deserve.
"When these types of players get the ball they frighten opponents and hopefully Jordan can follow in the footsteps of players such as Niall McGinn and Stuart Dallas. Jordan has the ability and confidence, no doubt about it."
Crusaders were knocked off top spot in the Premiership last weekend when the Glens kept a clean sheet at Seaview.
Eddie Patterson's side have only lost one of their last 11 league fixtures – being difficult to beat is a good quality to possess.
Up next for the east-Belfast side is a trip to basement battlers Ards, with the Boxing Day showdown with Linfield at the Oval looming large on the horizon.
"A few big name players left the club in the summer and it was disappointing to see those boys leave Glentoran," said Clarke.
"But life goes on and you always want to do your best for the club.
"We have stuck together in tough times and shown that you need to show togetherness if you want to get results."