Wednesday 21 November 2018

Shamrock Rovers' teenage keeper Gavin Bazunu to complete Leaving Cert ahead of €400k move

Gavin Bazunu with his SSE Airtricity/SWAI Player of the Month award for July. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Gavin Bazunu with his SSE Airtricity/SWAI Player of the Month award for July. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Shamrock Rovers goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu has indicated that he is willing to stay at home until next summer although it remains likely that his long-term destination will be agreed upon before he goes back to school in September.

The 16-year-old - who was yesterday named SSE Airtricity/SWAI Player of the Month for July on account of his breakthrough with the Hoops - is wanted by Manchester City and Spurs and it's believed that other clubs remain interested in striking a deal.

Premier League champions City are at the front of the queue and it's expected that Rovers will pocket a figure in excess of €400,000 plus add-on clauses for the sale of the teenager.

It's understood that Spurs have already made a bid below the Rovers valuation and remain interested.

However, he is not officially able to move to England on a professional deal until he turns 17 in February.

That's because he is on pro terms with Rovers and cannot then join a club across the water and revert to scholar status - which is what every player with a Premier League outfit is classified as until they are 17.

There were also indications that Bazunu wants to finish his Leaving Cert next summer before moving away and he made that point in a statement released by the club to coincide with his award win. "I am grateful to everyone who has helped me and continues to help me at the club," said Bazunu.

"Rovers is everything to me and I just want to keep working hard, do my Leaving Cert next year and be the best footballer I can be."

The Bazunu success story could prove to be an interesting case study in terms of Rovers' plans to make their academy project work.

He is one of three teenagers at the club - Aaron Bolger and Dean Dillon are the others - that are training full-time with the club with a Rovers arrangement with Ashfield College in Dundrum ensuring they don't miss any educational commitments.

Rovers are sponsoring the cost of attending the fee-paying school and this option is part of their plan to try and keep youths at home for longer.

Ultimately, there's an element of risk involved in the investment - especially when it comes to offering a player like Bazunu pro terms at such a young age - but if a star emerges then it leaves them in a position of strength when English clubs come calling.

Rovers are not willing to let players go on the cheap and it will require a bit of a cultural shift to get young players and their families on board when England is the dream. Clubs across the water would naturally prefer to take Irish youngsters on as scholars as the cost involved is small.

But if Bazunu can net a big-money move to a high-profile club that delivers a return for both the player and the employer then his example will function as an advertisement for the strength of their academy.

Rovers have not pumped money into that area of the club as a charitable gesture - they need a return and commanding a serious fee for one of their own sets a precedent for the next rising star.

Bazunu's first-team exposure - particularly a fine showing in a high-pressure Europa League game with Swedish league leaders AIK - indicated that he had the potential to go far.

Opportunity

"I have been in with the first-team squad all season but had no idea that the opportunity to play would come along so soon for me," he said.

"I have been working hard and with some injuries I was brought into the matchday squad, then next the gaffer (Stephen Bradley) told me I was starting in the team against Bray in June.

"Things went really well since then and I played three more league games before we had the Europa League qualifiers and that was another great experience for me."

Bazunu is now out of the Rovers side with Northern Ireland international Alan Mannus back in the team following his summer arrival - he was signed to be their new number one but had to wait to get in the side because of how well the youngster had performed as a stopgap.

The Hoops have just nine games remaining this season and suffered a massively disappointing FAI Cup loss to Drogheda United on Friday which removed their only possible avenue for silverware.

Fans want a successful first team - not a successful nursery - but a cash boost from Bazunu added to the €350,000 Preston paid for Graham Burke will soften the financial impact of either Dundalk or Cork lifting the league and the associated Champions League riches once again.

Irish Independent

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