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John Egan strikes it rich





A VISIT to Wembley is on the horizon for Irish defender John Egan and his team-mates at Gillingham FC.

Some of his pals and former team-mates have already played on that famous pitch, on the grand stage of an Ireland international against England (Jeff Hendrick) or an FA Cup final (David Meyler).

If Egan and his club get there, it will be for the less-glamorous Johnstone's Paint Trophy, Gillingham now just one stage away from that final thanks in no small part to their defender from Ireland who scored the only goal of the game as Gillingham beat Orient last week to reach the Southern Area final of that competition.

The plan for Egan is to get regular trips to places like Wembley for big games with club and country, success at Premier League and international levels still his goals.

The 22-year-old has taken a step back to get his career moving but while it's not all been plain sailing since he left Sunderland in the summer - his club are just above the relegation zone in England's third tier - his decision to drop down two divisions is seen as a positive one for Egan.

"The Premier League and the international team are still the ambitions for me, you are always striving to get to the top and I would love to play in the Premier League," Egan told The Herald this week as Gillingham prepared for the next bout in their battle to avoid the drop, a clash with Doncaster Rovers tomorrow.

"I had hoped that would be with Sunderland and that didn't happen for me but my ambition is still there. I had a few setbacks at Sunderland but these things make you stronger, if you keep believing in your own ability hopefully you can get back there one day," Egan added, the Cork native enthused by the rapid ascent of his old team-mates from the Irish underage teams like Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick.

"Robbie and Jeff are two fantastic players. They are playing well for their clubs and have done well for the Irish senior team. I am delighted to see the two of them in that Irish squad and that only makes you want to get in there with them. They went straight in at senior level and now they're established members of the squad, they will be around with Ireland for a long time and that gives other players like myself hope that it can happen," says Egan.


"All you can do is play well at club level and anything else will come from that. You can't take your eye off the ball and starting hoping for things that will never happen. So if my form is good with my club, other things could fall into place."

One thing that could fall into place in a day out at Wembley. "We are in the Southern Area section final. We play the winners of the Bristol City-Coventry game, and if we win that over two legs we get to Wembley," he says.

"Wembley would be nice, you don't get many chances to play on a stage like that. It's in the back of our minds but it's still 180 minutes away, a long way away so we have a lot of work to do first."

His form with Gillingham is good but one aspect of his game has stood out of late - his feats in front of goal as Egan has scored three times in his last two games for the club.

"I can't explain where the goals have come from in the last while. I have been getting on the end of things for most of the season but they just wouldn't go in for me. They do say that once you score the first one, other goals will follow and I've scored a couple now," he says.

The move to Gillingham from Sunderland has had its downside with the club's slide into the bottom four but overall, the defender is delighted to have made the move.

"I had options. There were offers from the Championship and even a bit of interest from the Premier League. I had been in contact with Warren Joyce, the reserve team manager at Manchester United, when I was released by Sunderland and there was a chance of something happening there but it fell through," says Egan.

"There was other interest from the Premier League but Gillingham made a good offer, I met Peter Taylor and liked what he had to say. He said he believed in my ability and that was all I wanted to hear.

"The move has gone well for me. I came here in the summer and I just wanted to play games and show people what I could do. I am playing every week and playing well, my confidence is high so I have enjoyed it a lot.

"The main thing for me is that I am playing first-team football every week. Sunderland was a great club and I learned a lot there. But with the change of manager and all the rest, it was time for me to move on and I am delighted to be where I am, playing games and showing people what I could do."