Linfield legend Glenn Ferguson believes the top clubs in England and Scotland will resume their pursuit of the Blues' gifted youngsters Charlie Allen and Dale Taylor when the coronavirus crisis is over.
Before the global pandemic slammed the brakes on football, the two talented 16-year-olds were catching the eye of Britain's premier clubs.
Charlie has had trials at Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham while Chelsea and Rangers are also interested and his good pal Dale has caught the eye of Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers.
The highly-rated Linfield youngsters appear destined to move across the water sooner rather than later and Blues Academy director Ferguson is expecting the race for the boys' signatures to hot up again.
"When everything starts up again players will be back and the recruitment processes will be up and running. All the boys who were on the radar of clubs still will be," said Ferguson. "Clubs will still need to recruit and strengthen so I don't think players like Charlie and Dale will have anything to worry about."
Ferguson added: “They are prepared more now ahead of a potential move because they have been training with the first team on a regular basis.
“The financial rewards are there... have a few good years and you could be made for life.”
Dale scored his first senior goal for the Blues in a 2-2 draw against Cliftonville in a County Antrim Shield clash in October.
Charlie has already made eight appearances for the first team, including seven this season.
Former Ballymena United boss Ferguson, who netted more than 550 goals in his amazing Irish League career, says the gifted duo are just two of the diamonds produced at Windsor Park hungry to sparkle at a higher level.
“It’s refreshing to see the kids coming through and we’ve had a few that have gone to England and Scotland while others have broken into the Linfield first team,” he added.
“In the last three years we’ve had another 11 who have gone across the water and are doing well such as Chris McKee, Ross McCausland, Lewis McKinnin who went to Rangers and Ben Wylie has done well at Celtic.
“We have lads at Fleetwood and Ipswich where they are holding their own and not come back which is a good sign.
“I’ve known the young players from my time here and watched them progress but the unfortunate thing for Linfield in terms of Dale and Charlie is that they will probably go across the water again.
“The other lads may be in the mould of Paul Smyth and Gavin Whyte in the sense of getting games for the first team and then anything can happen.
“Trai Hume is as good as any young player out there, he’s like a Rolls Royce and can play in many different positions. He is as hard as nails, can read the game well and Jake Corbett is a good attacking midfielder. Ruairi McConville, a centre-half, is another young teenager playing for the Swifts.”
Linfield manager David Healy is keeping a close eye on the progress of the young players and he accepts some of them may not be at Windsor Park for long.
Earlier in the season, he reflected on Charlie’s development: “He’s still young, developing and has a lot to learn, but I know, in time, Charlie won’t see his 17th or 18th birthday at Linfield.
“He will be elsewhere. Our plan is to guide him the best way for the next 12 months when he is here.
“He is still at school and hopefully when he does go he will make the right choices and have an incredible full-time career.”
Linfield Swifts boss David Dorrian, who celebrated a Steel & Sons Cup victory this season with the gifted teenagers, admits the next move for the duo is a massive call.
“You have to have a feel for a place that is right for you,” he said.
“Last season Jack Scott went to Wolves and he had his heart set on Birmingham. Something happened and Jack was disappointed but he ended up at Wolves and he’s doing exceptionally well, a teenager who is making great progress.
“The boys are still young and hungry, they have plenty of time to progress further.
“If they go to top clubs they might have better facilities and coaching but it will be harder to break through.
“At a lower league club you might have a better chance of playing.
“Both Charlie and Dale are physically strong boys. Trai and Jake would also have chances of making many first-team performances.
“If the boys don’t get a move across the water and thrive, we want them to be top Linfield players.
“Our product isn’t bad and young players know they don’t have to leave. That works for us.
“At Linfield we work hard on our training and coaching and anyone who comes through our system will improve ‑ you just have to look at Stephen Fallon to see that.”