Wednesday 21 February 2018

Towell needs to tailor his Ireland ambitions

Richie Towell recently signed for Championship side Brighton
Richie Towell recently signed for Championship side Brighton

Eamonn Sweeney

Speculation that his move to Brighton and Hove Albion will enable Richie Towell to have a shot at making the Republic of Ireland squad for the European Championships seems wildly optimistic. Towell may be a terrific talent but he has less than six months to break into a Brighton side currently topping the Championship table, adjust to playing at a much higher level and make a sufficiently big impression to leapfrog the experienced internationals in front of him.

It's hardly going to happen and a more realistic target for the Dundalk man would be a spot in the squad for the World Cup qualifying campaign. All the same, his progress will be followed with a great deal of interest to see whether he lives up to his domestic promise like Keith Fahey, exceeds it à la Seamus Coleman or fails to deliver on it like former sure things such as Roy O'Donovan, currently plying his trade in Australia after brief stints in Brunei and Indonesia.

The difference between League of Ireland and English football is so great it's difficult to predict anyone's progress with confidence.

Towell may be encouraged by the progress of Chris Forrester, who's made an excellent start to life with League One Peterborough United, with his manager Graham Westley suggesting the former Pat's man could be the new Michael Carrick. On the other hand the gulf between the Championship and League One is illustrated by the fortunes of Eoin Doyle, so prolific for Chesterfield in the lower division last season but out of sorts after moving up to Cardiff City to such an extent that he's been sent on loan to struggling Championship side Preston North End.

One thing in Towell's favour will be that he'll be working with the outstanding Irish manager in English football at the moment, Chris Hughton, whose achievement in steering the Seagulls to an unexpected table-topping berth sums up once again why he has to be regarded as the unluckiest manager in English football. Sacked by Newcastle United after losing just 14 of his 70 games, Hughton then got the boot from Norwich City because they weren't happy being just five points above the Premier League relegation zone. After getting rid of him they were promptly demoted.

English football has an almost pathological reluctance to give black managers a break, but Hughton has prevailed despite this. He'd make a great Irish manager whenever Martin O'Neill steps down.

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