Friday 13 December 2019

Daniel McDonnell: Plenty to gain from bringing Forrester into the fold

Call-up for March friendlies could accelerate development of Posh's talented Dubliner

Chris Forrester deserves chance to stake his claim for a place in Ireland’s squad for European Championship finalsmates in the north inner city Photo: Getty
Chris Forrester deserves chance to stake his claim for a place in Ireland’s squad for European Championship finalsmates in the north inner city Photo: Getty
'In October 2014, O’Neill called Hull recruit Brian Lenihan into train with the senior squad before he’d even played a game in England following his summer switch from Cork City' Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

When Chris Forrester was picked out for a Match of the Day Live package on BBC1 last Wednesday, with messrs Lineker, Shearer and Kilbane singing his praises, his profile graduated to another level.

This could be described as the modern magic of the FA Cup. It allowed people to finally see what quite a lot of others were aware of for a long time.

Forrester's former colleagues always knew that he had the ability to mix it in elite company and his performance in a dramatic FA Cup tie with West Brom justified that belief.

There were a few concerns expressed when Peterborough chairman Darragh MacAnthony used social media to declare his August purchase from St Patrick's Athletic a £3m+ player, with friends worried about the hype machine putting unfair pressure on the player's shoulders. Former team-mate James Chambers subscribed to that view.

It will be hard to control now, however, after a quiet midweek schedule gave this cup tie huge exposure and the promising youngsters in the Peterborough dressing room rose to the occasion. Scouts are descending on all of their fixtures for a reason.

Forrester's popularity in League of Ireland circles - he entertained Bohs and St Pat's fans without ever seriously riling supporters of other clubs - means there is a lot of goodwill behind him.

Wes Hoolahan went overseas with a following for similar reasons.

There are obvious parallels. Both playmakers graduated to senior level via Belvedere, although Forrester was a late arrival to competitive schoolboy football after preferring street football with his mates in the north inner city.

They also spent a fair chunk of their education in the domestic arena dispatched to a wide role because of concerns about their suitability for physical battles in the middle.

That line of thought could also explain the scepticism from clubs in England that came over, had a look and decided against taking a punt.

The Peterborough Telegraph last week hailed 'Posh' for 'unearthing' Forrester from Ireland.

That suggested that he had been buried away out of sight when, in reality, plenty of prospective buyers knew exactly where the Dubliner was and decided to keep him there.

Hoolahan could relate to that. He went to Livingston eventually but it was a prolonged stint of games in League One that really opened eyes.


It's by no means a perfect comparison as there are differences in style and position, given that Forrester is now re-cast as a sitting midfielder.

Another department where there should be a contrast is the speed with which they progress to the senior international fold.

Hoolahan did get an invitation from Don Givens back in 2002 during a caretaker stint, but he was 26 before he made his debut and 31 when he finally started a competitive fixture.

Predictably, his assurance in possession means he is suited to the brief.

This is why there's a strong argument for fast-tracking 23-year-old Forrester into the picture. Keith Fahey knows the standard required and put forward the case on Twitter.

"Technically far better than majority of the squad and that's not a pop," he said.

James McClean was impressed in opposition and raved about his display.

Euro 2016 would be too much to ask - that's not a realistic proposition - but there is life beyond it and if the feeling is that Forrester will be part of it then he shouldn't have to wait for the inevitable move to a wealthier outfit.

In October 2014, O'Neill called Hull recruit Brian Lenihan into train with the senior squad before he'd even played a game in England following his summer switch from Cork City. He was much more inexperienced than Forrester is now.

What he had in his favour was that he was on the books of a Premier League outfit at that juncture.

Forrester has adapted seamlessly to life in League One and the cup games demonstrated that he can look equally comfortable against a better standard of opponent.

The age profile of the Irish dressing-room means that a period of transition is around the corner and there may be situations where fresh faces are dropped in at the deep end.

When a newcomer appears on the scene, managers often speak of the need to be patient and allow the individual in question to bed in.

Roy Keane says it took him 10 to 15 caps to get comfortable on the pitch.

Forrester has faith in his ability, but he is by no means a brash character and if he is one of the options for the longer term, then bringing him into familiarise himself with the set-up and the characters involved is a win-win situation.

He doesn't have a huge amount of international experience because of his belated blossoming and the fact that he largely played second fiddle at U-21 level to players that lacked his scope for progression. Or his ability.

O'Neill has consistently said that he doesn't want to throw around caps like confetti and that's understandable. Joe Lapira and Joe O'Cearuill will forever be able to say that they played for Ireland, which is troubling.


The upcoming friendlies with Switzerland and Slovakia are important for sorting out the options for Euro 2016, and pitching a candidate for the World Cup campaign into the games will be down the list of priorities.

That shouldn't close the door on naming Forrester in an enlarged squad and getting the awkward first date out of the way.

As it happens, he is trying to break into a department where the future looks bright, with James McCarthy, Jeff Hendrick and Harry Arter sure to be on the premises.

Alan Browne at Preston is a versatile player who will be knocking on the door very soon.

Nothing is certain, but Forrester has illustrated that he is a project worth pursuing.

There's a compelling case for starting it now.

Who is your sportstar of the year?

Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.

Prizes include, tickets to Ireland's against Scotland in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.

Simply click here to register your vote

Indo Sport

The Left Wing: John Cooney on Ulster's European run and bouncing back from World Cup disappointment

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport