Belfast Telegraph

NI hero Johnson will be great mentor at Blackburn Rovers, says Lyons

Brad Lyons
Brad Lyons
Brad with his mother Shirley and brother Mark at May’s Irish Cup Final

By Steven Beacom

Brad Lyons is relishing the opportunity to work with former Northern Ireland hero Damien Johnson at Blackburn Rovers.

Midfield ace Lyons has completed his move from Coleraine to Ewood Park after a deal was done between the two clubs on Friday.

Lyons, who impressed Blackburn on a week-long summer trial, will initially join the Championship outfit on loan, with the permanent part of his two-year contract beginning in January.

The 21-year-old was at Seaview on Monday night when the Bannsiders beat Crusaders 3-0 at Seaview, where he received a rousing farewell from Coleraine supporters aware of his fantastic contribution to the club since making his debut four years ago.

Lyons has been an influential player for Oran Kearney's side and helped them win the Irish Cup last season.

Though his target is to make the Rovers first team, it is expected he will start by playing in the club's Under-23 side, who are managed by ex-Northern Ireland star Johnson.

"I had a week's trial at Blackburn at the start of the season and worked very closely with Damien," said Lyons.

"He is a great coach and a fantastic mentor. I was over there in a completely new environment but he took me under his wing and gave me video analysis after my game so it is going to be good for me and my performances working with someone like that.

"I'll go over this week and go straight into training. I'll get my head down and work really hard.

"It has been madness lately, especially on Friday on deadline day trying to get the deal over the line with both clubs obviously getting things right for them and getting it right for me.

"I'm at university in Northern Ireland but will continue my education in England, which was important to me."

The 21-year old, whose only club thus far has been the Bannsiders, has had to battle back from two horrific injuries in order to get this move.

In October 2017, Lyons suffered two fractured cheekbones when jumping for an aerial challenge against Linfield, leaving him with bruises that required a protective mask when he returned.

That came after he suffered a horrible knee injury in April of the same year, which kept him out for an extended period.

But Lyons appreciates the role boss Kearney and his team-mates have played in his career development, adding that he expects big things from them this season.

"I've always supported Coleraine and the boys are all best mates and the fans are brilliant," said Lyons.

"At Seaview I was walking off the pitch and I got an amazing reception which meant a lot.

"With this move, I have to put all the thanks down to Oran and his backroom staff for giving me the opportunity to play at such a young age and get vital experience.

"Yes, I have to go and do it on the pitch, but they are the people who have had faith in me to put me out there.

"I want to give a special mention to all the boys around me in the changing room and the lads I have played with before.

"My team-mates have helped make me the player I am today. Every Saturday I will be checking how Coleraine have done. Just because I'm across the water it doesn't mean I won't be following them.

"They are my childhood Irish League team, and always will be, and hopefully some day I'll come back to the Irish League and play for Coleraine."

Lyons added he gains inspiration from players like Gavin Whyte, who left Crusaders for Oxford United earlier this year, and others who have moved to England from the Irish League.

"I keep a close eye on all the Irish League boys that go across the water, especially Martin Smith and Stephen Dooley that went over from Coleraine in the summer," he said.

"They are an inspiration to me because they are smashing it up over there, so I say to myself: 'Why can't I go over there and do that too?'

"I'm really looking forward to having this opportunity."

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