Monday 18 December 2017

Jack Byrne is like Roy Keane - they are both nuts, says Patrick Vieira

Roy Keane and (right) Jack Byrne
Roy Keane and (right) Jack Byrne
Jack Byrne has made a big impression on Patrick Vieira and the Frenchman expects the Dubliner to get even better

John Fallon

Just as the well of young Irish talent appears to have dried up, Patrick Vieira thinks Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane have a gem on their hands in Jack Byrne.

The 19-year-old Dubliner spent the last two years learning his trade under Manchester City's Elite Development Squad coach Vieira before clinching a season-long loan move to Dutch club SC Cambuur last month.

As a World Cup winner and mainstay of an Arsenal side that claimed three Premier League titles, Vieira knows quality when he sees it and believes Byrne can flourish for club and country.

The fact the youngster possesses a streak of madness which reminds the Frenchman of his former midfield foe, Keane, forms part of his opinion in predicting a bright future for his protégé.

"The only way to compare Jack and Roy is that they are both nuts!" Vieira said after City's development squad lost 3-2 against St Patrick's Athletic in Wednesday night's friendly at Richmond Park.

"That can help - especially when you're Irish. You must have it, as we're in a world of competition, and the desire and personality will make a difference.

"Sometimes people get it wrong between having a personality and being stupid. But Jack Byrne has personality.

"I don't know any top-quality player who doesn't have that. It's part of Jack's character and I've never had any issues with him. I love him more than anything else.

"On the ball, he is technically very good. He understands the game quicker than anyone else. I've worked with Jack for the last few years and he really improved in the last year. It was fantastic, especially in the last three or four months, he was one of my best players.

"He got to the level where I didn't expect to be honest. He showed me that I was wrong and that's why I'm really pleased with him as he worked really hard.

"Physically, he knew that was his weaknesses and that's why I'm glad he went to Holland. I hope he plays games and does well. It was time for him to play man football. Holland was the best option and we decided together that it was a really good step for him.

"If you want to play direct, Jack will be useless but if you want to keep the ball on the floor, and you need someone really creative, Jack will be the player who can do that."

Should Keane, as he jokingly vowed to do on Monday, seek a reference from his "pal" about the Ireland U-21 midfielder, Vieira won't be slow about recommending him to be eased into the senior international fold.

"Yeah (I know Roy) but also Shay Given and a few Irish boys," he stated. "I think they are right to keep an eye on Jack.

"I really don't know about the future. I think Jack got the potential to play in a higher league and if he keeps working the same way he's worked the last six or seven months, he'd have a massive chance.

"It won't be easy but, when you have the talent and the desire, it's just a question of time.

"If he's got good players around him, football is easier as well. Jack have the potential but the potential is not enough to play in the first team.

"Not just for seven or eight months in Holland, Jack has to work hard for the next 10 years if he really wants to make it. The hard work dictates which level you will play at but the potential is there."

With a remark to raise the spirits of any Irish fan, Vieira pinpointed Byrne as an ideal prospective international colleague of Jack Grealish, the Aston Villa winger still to nail his international allegiance to Ireland amid interest from his homeland of England. The 39-year-old was swift, however, to cite the differing stages of the duo in their respective career paths.

He said: "They can play together. But one is more advanced in his career than the other.

"The Jack from Aston Villa has shown from last year that he has fantastic potential. And I think the way he played last year shows that he will be one of the young players to follow because of how well he did with Aston Villa."

Before Byrne's name began to figure amongst the list of potential young Irish saviours, his Etihad Stadium colleague Ian Lawlor was also considered a contender.

A gifted goalkeeper from his teenage years playing for Home Farm, Lawlor enjoyed a memorable 2014 by earning a senior Ireland call-up just months after graduating to City's Champions League squad for their games against Bayern Munich.

Still, this year has been one of frustration for the goalkeeper from Edenmore in Dublin as shoulder and knee injuries set him back. Vieira confirmed Lawlor will be following his compatriot onto the loan circuit shortly.

"Ian is coming from back from injury and before thinking about going out on loan he has to get fit, train and play," he said.

"Of course, he is one of the players we are trying to find a loan for but we have to find the right place for him to play and improve.

"We would be open to any kind of options. What's important is that we help him develop, be it he stays with us, goes abroad or a Premier League club. Our main focus is the best next step to help him develop."

Read more: Robbie Keane names the best Irish XI he has ever played with

Read more: Roy Keane: 'I am not daft enought to walk away from a job'

Irish Independent

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