Bristol City keen to keep Callum O'Dowda as Ireland attacker's stock continues to rise
BRISTOL CITY manager Lee Johnson believes that 'fantastic human being' Callum O'Dowda has the potential to play at the very highest level - and asserted that the club have no intention of selling him.
The Ireland international has been the subject of transfer window interest from Championship leaders Leeds, but he agreed a new deal with his current club this week.
However, that deal is only until the summer of 2020 with Johnson indicating that the winger had an option for an extension in his contract that the club had always planned to trigger.
The 23-year-old was impressive for City as they spoiled Martin O'Neill's first match as Nottingham Forest manager.
"We want to keep him as long as we can," said Johnson. "First and foremost, Callum is a fantastic human being and I think that's important for the culture at the football club.
"It (contract) wasn't a reaction to speculation. I don't want to lose Callum. We lost four or five good players last summer and that's put us in a (financial) position where we now don't have to lose our best players.
"I'm a big champion of his because I believe in him and I think you saw his athleticism and calmness and composure on the ball today. He's still got things to improve on with his end product in terms of goals and assists but certainly the potential is there to play at the very top level."
O'Neill was a big believer in O'Dowda during his time as Ireland manager. He was at League Two side Oxford and a member of the U21 group when he was invited to train with the senior team ahead of Euro 2016.
He duly earned a move to the Championship and has steadily grown into an important player for his current club - and for Ireland - with Johnson stating that improvement has come under a number of headings.
"We knew about his potential at Oxford and we've given him the vehicle to grow," he said."We've put effort in behind the scenes. If you saw him when he signed - he's probably put on 4kg of 5kg of muscle mass.
"It's not just technical, it's physical. And it's tactical too. He's a good student. He's a consistent part of the starting team now and in the Ireland squad and rightly so. It should be our job to build around these type of players. That will give us the opportunity at some point in the future to compete in the higher echelons of the division."