Kevin Kilbane on Liam Kelly, Declan Rice & Player of the Year

When you hear a player like Liam Kelly has played for the Republic of Ireland at underage level and has committed to the Boys in Green to then turn around and turn down a call up is very disappointing.

Liam Kelly Disappointment
From a personal point of view, I wouldn’t have played at underage level if I was going to commit fully to that nation. I’ve spoken openly in the past about my England call-up, I didn’t want to play for the Three Lions as a youngster and I only saw my future with the Republic of Ireland, that was how I was brought up. I understand now we’re probably in a different age of football and you have to have a bit of leniency with players but it’s still extremely disappointing.

In saying that, I think Martin O’Neill has handled the situation brilliantly..

..he’s come out and been very forthcoming with the press and told them the full facts of what has happened. I don’t think there can be any blame at the feet of the manager, he’s done everything he possibly can with Liam Kelly and he asked the player to join the squad and the player said no. I think the Reading man’s actions have left a very poor taste in Irish mouths.

On the flip side to that, there was a suggestion that Declan Rice was on Gareth Southgate and England’s radar but he’s always been adamant that he wants to play for the Republic of Ireland. He’s reaffirmed his commitment, he’s played underage level..

..and there was never any doubt in his mind who he wanted to represent.

He looks very content in Martin O’Neill’s set-up and he’s one we’re all very excited about, we haven’t got any teenagers playing at the Premier League level at the moment so I’m delighted he’s chosen to represent us.

Moving On Under O’Neill
I think the belief the fans have in the team and the manager has got to come back through maybe Martin O’Neill blooding one or two of the younger players that we need to see progressing. We’ve got to be optimistic about the next 4 or 5 years and the way I see it going forward for the management team is coming up to the competitive fixtures, they need to integrate those young players into the squad. It’s great to have Seamus Coleman back while Shane Long is now the oldest player in the squad..

..and it only seems like a couple of years ago, he was being introduced to squads that I was in!

They can help ease the newer players into the international environment, even Shane Duffy, a player who hasn’t got a lot of caps, now has a lot of experience with the level he’s been playing at this season. I said before, it’s not a question of giving Martin O’Neill an easy ride but we need to be more realistic with our expectations over the next year or so. We’ve got a lot of new players that will not be used to the intensity of the spotlight or the scrutiny that comes with playing for their country, some players thrive in it instantly and it can take a couple of years for players to become comfortable with it because it took me about 18 months to really feel part of the squad.

Salah v De Bruyne
Away from International week, it’s coming towards the end of the season, award season is nearly upon us and for me it’s a two-horse race now. I think Harry Kane was in the running prior to his injury but for me..

..it’s between Mo Salah of Liverpool and Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City.

I was thinking during the week that De Bruyne is going to get the PFA Player of the Year as the voting is around now and Mo Salah will win the Football Writer’s Player of the Year! Given the four goals he scored last weekend, the Egyptian looks like he’s ending the season stronger as the writers vote later than the players. I think they’re both deserving winners, De Bruyne’s overall play throughout the season has been out of this world but Salah has caught the eye in a different way and I think it would be quite fitting if they both won an award each.