Friday 19 October 2018

Keeping fiery streak on ice will be key to Toner's Pat's progress

Kevin Toner in action for Aston Villa. Photo: Paul Harding/PA
Kevin Toner in action for Aston Villa. Photo: Paul Harding/PA

John Fallon

He's the last Irish-born teen to be handed an English Premier League debut and was tipped for big things by his Aston Villa manager but Kevin Toner feels St Patrick's Athletic can facilitate his career rebuild project.

The Ashbourne native - whose father Brendan played for St Francis in the famous 1990 FAI Cup final - set the bar high by playing the last four games of Villa's season in 2015 and the managerial upheaval that followed their relegation ultimately cost him his spot in the squad.

Caretaker boss Eric Black was suitably impressed with the traits of the centre-back to predict a career in the game "even if it's not at Manchester United" but a tumultuous period since that shock elevation to the big time led him to Inchicore yesterday.

Roberto Di Matteo burst the bubble soon after arriving for Villla's Championship campaign by loaning Toner to near neighbours Walsall followed by a brief stint at fellow League One outfit Bradford City.

Exposure away from Villa Park was also part of Steve Bruce's plans for the Irishman, yet his stay at Stevenage ended seven weeks ago with a red card in the defeat to Yeovil Town.

Toner's fiery streak had also been highlighted at Villa when a couple of late challenges provoked a mass crawl in the FA Youth Cup tie against West Ham.

Hamper His latest boss, Liam Buckley, will have to harness that temper in his latest recruit. After narrowly avoiding relegation last season, and assembling an improved squad, indiscipline cannot be allowed hamper their ambitions of regaining a European spot after a two-year absence.

"To play in the Premier League, you have to have something and I can see Kevin is a quality player," explained Buckley yesterday. "We just have to make sure we keep him on the pitch. I don't know him personally, bar our couple of meetings, but he seems a sensible lad and will calm down."

From Toner's perspective, he's not prepared to consign his English experience to history.

"Playing against Southampton, Watford, Newcastle United and Arsenal was a brilliant experience and I'd like to think that eventually I can go back to the Premier League," he explained. "I got to mark quality strikers like Oliver Giroud but I'm back home now and hungrier than ever to play football."

Meanwhile, Manchester United's Ireland U-21 goalkeeper Kieran O'Hara has signed a contract extension, keeping him at the club until 2020.

Oldham are expected to complete the signing of Dundalk's Patrick McEleney today.

Irish Independent

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