Manning hails Cunningham impact on his Championship rise
Ryan Manning, the talented Queens Park Rangers midfielder, credits fellow Championship player and former next door neighbour Greg Cunningham, the Preston North End full-back, as being one of the main catalysts in his recent rise to first-team action.
The pair originally hail from Carnmore, a small parish about eight kilometres outside Galway city. The Manning and Cunningham households are side-by-side and Manning, who made an impressive debut for the QPR first team last week, spoke of how the "kick-abouts" were vital in him developing into the player he is.
"We used to just spend hours and hours playing football in the back garden and then I think I was hooked from that. It used to go well into the night; it would be pitch-black before we would stop."
Speaking about his childhood friend, Manning said: "He made his 200th league appearance in his last game, so it's been a couple of milestones for the both of us in the last few days. We grew up next door together. Who would have thought two lads from Carnmore would be playing in the Championship?"
The 20-year-old made his first team debut on New Year's Eve, producing a man-of-the-match display in a 2-1 victory over Wolves, to end a run of successive defeats for the club. Manager Ian Holloway kept faith with the former Irish U-19 player of the year by starting him once again in the following home game which ended in another 2-1 victory against Ipswich.
The former Galway United player only received a squad number less than 24 hours prior to making his first appearance for the club.
"It was such a hectic few days and it happened so quickly I didn't have a chance to even think about it or get nervous. I just jumped in there and did my thing. It was good in a way that it happened like that. I got a couple of early touches it just settled me right down."
Manning signed for Harry Redknapp's side in 2014 after he produced an impressive display in a 1-1 draw for the Ireland U-19s in a European Championships qualifier against Switzerland.
"There were a lot of scouts at it to look at the Swiss team because they had a few big players playing for them and I just had one of those games. After that, there were a few teams interested. I think then Harry Redknapp got involved and I came over to London and after a few days it was done and dusted."
The move was initially a big change, going from training part-time with Galway United to a rigorous professional training schedule alongside the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Charlie Austin and Shaun Wright-Phillips.
"It took a few months to get used to the full-time training when you come in. Even just getting your body used to training at 11 in the morning not seven in the evening."
However, soon after his arrival, Redknapp left the club and it's a measure of the upheaval at Loftus Road that Holloway is the fourth permanent manager in under two years since. The colourful boss took over in November and described Manning's debut as "absolutely outstanding and it epitomised what my QPR was before and what I want it to be in the future".
Manning is grateful to Holloway for rewarding him with his first appearance and was high in praise of the attributes he brings.
"He's unbelievable around the training ground. We come in and he always has the most energy out of everyone. He's just a good solid character to have around the place and he has good motivational skills too. He's an unbelievable character to raise everyone's spirits whether it's in training or going out to play."
So what does the future hold? "I want to keep trying to play as many games as I can and see what happens between now and the end of the season."