Sunday Life

| 6.1°C Belfast

Sam McClelland shaping up to be next Jonny Evans as Northern Ireland defender impresses at Chelsea


Northern Ireland underage star Sam McClelland after signing his contract with Chelsea

Northern Ireland underage star Sam McClelland after signing his contract with Chelsea

Northern Ireland underage star Sam McClelland after signing his contract with Chelsea

Northern Ireland supporters hope that Jonny Evans will continue playing international football for many years to come but when he leaves the scene there will be an almighty void to fill. Chelsea teenager Sam McClelland might be the defender to do it.

The 19-year-old centre-back is highly rated at Stamford Bridge. He is strong in the air and ground and has fine leadership qualities. It wasn't too long ago that young players would have to leave Chelsea to make their mark, but McClelland has been encouraged in recent times to see Academy players rising through the ranks to become first team stars.

He can look at the likes of Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James and Billy Gilmour and think that could be him one day.

Having joined Chelsea from Coleraine Academy in 2018, the young Limavady man is now playing for the Under-23 side after overcoming an Achilles issue earlier this season and is keen to take that next big step.

"I had bother with an Achilles injury but I'm managing it in a way now where I'm playing with it, and hopefully I'll get to the end of this season and I'll be really fit and firing for next season," says McClelland.

"With the injury at the start of the season I didn't play many games, but I got back in before Christmas playing again and I'm back in the team now and things are going well.

"From when I first moved over to now I'm definitely a better player. Next season I want to push on and take the next step whatever that may be, whether it is on loan to play senior football. We'll see at the end of this season.

"At the start of my time at Chelsea, Callum Hudson-Odoi was playing the year above me and I played with him a few times, and now to see him as a regular in the first team, it shows through the Academy at Chelsea they do produce good players. That gives you hope."

For Northern Ireland he wants to impress in the Under-21 side in Euro qualifiers this year and show he can make it all the way to the senior set-up.

"My number one goal or dream has always been to play for Northern Ireland and play many times for the team. The next step for me is playing with the Under-21s in the coming campaign and doing well, and then I want to push on to the seniors after that," says the affable McClelland.

"Jonny Evans is a great example to me. He plays in my position and if I could emulate him and carry on what he has done that would be fantastic.

"I like the way he reads the game. He is composed and looks in control all the time. I like to play in a similar way. I like organising and to be in control. Watching Jonny, he does that. It would be amazing if I got the chance to play alongside him for Northern Ireland one day."

Top Videos