Jamal Lewis can follow role model Andy Robertson to top Premier League side, says former Northern Ireland boss
Northern Ireland legend Sammy McIlroy says Norwich City youngster Jamal Lewis is the country's best prospect since Jonny Evans and expects him to take the Premier League by storm.
The 21-year-old left-back, who has been a regular in Michael O'Neill's side since his international debut just 15 months ago, impressed as the Canaries won the Championship last term in his first full season in the senior game.
Norwich begin their return to the top-flight after a three-year hiatus with a trip to Champions League winners Liverpool in the Premier League's curtain-raiser on the Friday night of the opening weekend, and McIlroy says the stage is set for Lewis to make an immediate impression.
"Jamal is a tremendous prospect with fantastic ability, loads of energy and confidence for a boy of such a young age," said McIlroy, who earned 67 caps and managed Northern Ireland between 1999 and 2003. "He's definitely one for the future and everyone knows it.
"When it comes to potential you have to match him with someone like Jonny Evans. It's a great accolade, no doubt.
"The comparison is best made at international level. Jonny has been a very consistent player with Northern Ireland while Jamal's performances also deserve that kind of praise - he's been excellent."
McIlroy believes that Lewis has no reason to fear the Premier League and if he continues to improve will quickly become a target for a top-six club.
The Luton-born youngster has already attracted interest from West Ham while Arsenal boss Unai Emery is a known admirer.
"Now he is going to be tested even more, not just Jamal but Norwich, too," the former Manchester United stalwart added. "This is a huge step up from the Championship, but Jamal has shown for his country that he is not out of place in big games.
"It will be interesting to see how he copes with the top-flight but I think he will thrive on the opportunity of playing against better players.
"I don't expect Jamal to be fazed by games against the likes of Liverpool at Anfield, though I hope for his development he will learn from them."
McIlroy says there is no reason why Lewis cannot repeat the phenomenal success of Reds left-back Andy Robertson, who joined from unfashionable Hull and soon became a Kop favourite with his trademark high-energy forays up and down the left flank.
"I always liked Robertson in the Scottish game and Hull City and was surprised such a move didn't happen sooner," McIlroy continued. "Just like Robertson, bigger clubs will come calling if Jamal does well at Norwich.
"If he can be as consistent as he has been then the world is his oyster. There are still not a lot of top-quality left-sided players. Robbo has been a sensation at Liverpool and this kid can go the same road. They play the same way and their style is almost identical. Jamal couldn't get a better role model than Robertson."