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Why Dungannon's Michael Forbes will bring notable headgear on big West Ham move

 

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In focus: Michael Forbes competing for County Tyrone against Manchester United’s Manni Norkett at the SuperCupNI last year

In focus: Michael Forbes competing for County Tyrone against Manchester United’s Manni Norkett at the SuperCupNI last year

Edgar Davids

Edgar Davids

Getty Images

Eric Ross

Eric Ross

Family support: Michael with his proud mum Ciara

Family support: Michael with his proud mum Ciara

In focus: Michael Forbes competing for County Tyrone against Manchester United’s Manni Norkett at the SuperCupNI last year

Northern Ireland and Dungannon Swifts youngster Michael Forbes stands six feet, two inches tall and he's making a big impression.

 

But it's not simply the 16-year-old's height and ability which has grabbed attention.

The centre-back from Ardboe has earned a two-year scholarship with Premier League side West Ham United and he will bring a fashion accessory with him when he makes the move to London this summer.

Michel, who impressed for Cookstown Youth before moving to the Swifts, has been wearing glasses on the pitch to improve his vision.

It's been an unusual sight and his additional gear has evoked memories of former Holland international Edgar Davids who began wearing protective goggles in the late 1990s following surgery in his right eye caused by glaucoma.

Another man famed for sporting glasses on the pitch was former Glentoran hero Eric Ross.

Among his former clubs were Northampton Town and he played in the famous FA Cup tie against Manchester United in 1970 which finished 8-2, with George Best slamming in six.

To be fair to Eric, who won two titles with the Glens as well as one Northern Ireland cap, he had been given the job of marking Bobby Charlton who failed to score.

Teenager Michael, a student at St Pius X College in Magherafelt, found that glasses improved his eyesight during games but he has recently switched to contact lenses and they are doing the job so far.

But the headgear clearly hasn't hindered Michael's development and he will not hesitate to use them as he targets a bright future in England's top flight.

Jim Magilton, the Irish Football Association's Elite Performance Director, has been working with the teenager in the Club NI programme and he suggested the contact lenses.

"I've recently switched to the contact lenses," said Michael. "I had the lenses but didn't really like wearing them.

"Jim encouraged me to try them and it helps with my vision. The goggles can block a few of your angles so he helped me to switch.

"But I can easily wear them again, West Ham don't mind what I wear, whether it's the contact lenses or goggles.

"I'm comfortable with the lenses at the minute but I always bring both with me.

"Anyone can wear the glasses, with lenses that suit their eyes.

"They have fallen off a few times but you can tighten them and they haven't given me any bother.

"I'm the only one who wears the glasses and I needed them otherwise the action in front of me would be blurry.

"I was wearing them for so long so I was used to them.

"I just wanted to improve my vision so I can see more around me."

The talented youngster hasn't been included in the Dungannon first team squad yet but the Hammers believe they have found a diamond.

"I was at Fleetwood before Christmas and they offered me a two-year scholarship," he added.

"We waited to see what other interest there was and I went to Middlesbrough.

"They already had enough centre-backs and then West Ham showed an interest through a scout that used to work for Norwich.

"Instead of going to Norwich, he encouraged me to go to West Ham.

"Myself and Terry Devlin went over and then I went home for a few days.

"The club wanted me to come back and it was a bit of a surprise because the competition and standard is strong.

"Once I got the call, I was determined to go over again and prove a point.

"ClubNI has been a massive influence and taught me a lot more about the game.

"It's given me confidence and when you are playing international football at youth level, you gain vital experience. We were due to play in the Under-17 Euros this year.

"It's also been really good at Dungannon. It's been a great experience playing for them and I have learned a lot. I've worked with different coaches and this year it has been Terry Fitzpatrick and Chris McCann."

Dixie Robinson, Head of Youth Development at Stangmore Park, says the youngster is "an exceptionally good athlete with a great game understanding."

Michael added: "I'm excited and nervous, it's a big opportunity for me and I can't wait to get started.

"I'll give it everything I have and can't wait to get going.

"West Ham are a massive club with brilliant players and they have been very supportive so far.

"In the Academy, you do some studies as well as play football.

"The plan was to go over to West Ham at the end of June but it depends on the virus.

"I haven't played football since around the end of February. It's a hard time for everyone."

Michael's parents, along with his extended family, have been a constant support.

"Family have always pushed me and when the Middlesbrough move didn't work out they told me to stay positive," he added.

"I gave it everything at West Ham and my family's faith and belief in me paid off.

"My mum and dad, Ciara and Conor, and my extended family have been brilliant."

Belfast Telegraph