Jon Walters: Sky's the limit for James McCarthy
Stoke City striker Jonathan Walters watched the televisual fairground attraction that is the transfer window with more than a little passing interest.
While professionally he is eager to embrace the eccentric possibilities arising from Stephen Ireland's latest attempt at rehabilitation, the Wirral-born player's curiosity was more than a little piqued by the transfer business being conducted by Everton.
His boyhood club, arguably top of the class in their last-minute wheeling and dealing, eventually secured the signature of Ireland's James McCarthy late on Monday night.
And, as his country prepares for something significant from the midfielder this week, so too does his international team-mate.
"It's a really good move for him," enthused the 29-year-old.
"Obviously the manager knows him pretty well and that's always a good sign when a manager wants you that much that he's willing to spend all that money on you.
"James won't be moving a far distance and he's already got a good friend at the club in Seamus Coleman. He'll fit right in, I'm sure he will.
"He's a top player and I know there were a few clubs courting him over the last year or so. They've got a really good buy and it's the team I support, so yeah, I'm reasonably happy about it too!"
"He's at the right age now to show that potential even more. The manager knows him well and he can only improve like he's been doing in the past few years.
"The sky is the limit for him really. It's up to him now how much he can improve, day by day and how much he works at it. He's not one to fall short there so he'll be a top, top player, I'm sure of that."
Aside from eyeing McCarthy's move and propagating the frankly risible party line that Shane Long remained entirely unaffected by the farcical manner in which he spent his Monday afternoon, the arrival of a familiar enough face at his own club also sparks some interest.
With Stephen Ireland pitching up at the Britannia Stadium, there will be renewed interest among his dwindling fan club that an Irish international with a chequered past and an uncertain future can, against all expectations, make the most of the present.
Ireland (27), whose international career remains stuck on six caps, confirmed as much yesterday in media soundbites as he attempts to resuscitate a career that has predominantly suffered from self-harm.
"Mark Hughes knew him at Manchester City and the best years Stephen has played have been under him there," says Walters, who is in line to truly come of age with Ireland as he prepares to earn his 21st cap against Sweden on Friday night.
"So, Mark has had faith in him to bring him here on a season long loan. Richard Dunne knows him and says he can be a top player as well. It's all hands on deck in midfield, so there's good competition for places which should benefit everyone."
Under Hughes, discarded at City and derided at QPR, the Potters have made an encouraging start – two wins from three outings – in the Premiership as they subtly alter their playing style from the stale, sterile stuff that ultimately expired beneath the tutelage of Tony Pulis.
"It's been well-documented by all the players that we've changed the style from day one really," adduces Walters, who also points to the qualities exhibited by another Irish colleague, Marc Wilson.
"Everyone's enjoying training and the matches have been good quality. But then it's only enjoyable if you're winning. We're not getting beaten, we've the first points on the board, so we can relax a little bit. We have to keep it going, but the style helps.
"Marc is a midfield player anyway, he was when he came here first, even though he played centre-half at Portsmouth.
"In certain circumstances, he's moved to right-back or left-back, but he's gone back into midfield this year.
"He's done well. He took a knock at the weekend, but he should be okay. He was unfortunate to break his leg last year, but he's flying now.
"But listen the style is great. Every player enjoys passing the ball. For the front men, there's a bit more time."