Friday 18 October 2019

'The Irish mentality is in my blood' - Liam Kelly hopes Feyenoord form will lead to call-up

Irish U21 cap Liam Kelly was unveiled by Dutch club Feyenoord today
Irish U21 cap Liam Kelly was unveiled by Dutch club Feyenoord today

Tony Considine

Liam Kelly is hopeful his move to Feyenoord could open the door to an Ireland senior call-up.

The midfielder, who left Reading for Rotterdam this week, insists he will do all he can to break into manager Jaap Stam's first team plans.

And the former Under-21 cap insists a good season with the Dutch giants could lead to a call from Mick McCarthy.

The 23-year's commitment to the Irish cause was questioned by previous boss Martin O'Neill who went on the record as saying that the Kelly camp had advised him the dual-qualified player was keeping his options open after turning down a call-up.

Kelly has always denied that was the case, stating at the time: "It was a personal reason, it was nothing against the Republic of Ireland. It had nothing to do with feeling English or Irish, it was a personal thing between me and my family which we thought was best".

His quotes in an interview with  Dutch football magazine Voetbal International seem to put those doubts to bed,      

"Maybe if I perform well at Feyenoord, that (Ireland) door will open," he said. "It would be a great honour and good for my development."

Judging from Kelly's first training sessions at Feyenoord, he has the opportunity for a pivotal role. Stam immediately gave his new midfielder control over the playmaking of the Feyenoord attacks.

According to the club's website: "Every attack starts with the little Irishman who comes to play for the defence."

Kelly added: "I can handle all positions in midfield, left, right, but most of the time I play centrally. I am reasonably two-legged, although my right foot is stronger than the left, although I can give it a good pass.

"My role at Reading was also a playmaker, just before the central defence duo. Building up, helping to set up the attacks, I like to get to the ball a lot and that is possible because a lot starts with you.

"But it's not that I don't do anything if we don't have the ball. I like to play aggressively, put pressure, quickly win back the ball. I don't shy away from tackles. The Irish mentality, our mentality, fighting to the death, working for the badge. That is in my blood." 

The playmaker insisted Feyenoord is not unknown territory for him and neither are his new teammates.

"I played against Luciano Narsingh and Leroy Fer when they were at Swansea City," he said.

"It's nice that we meet here now. At Reading, I had many Dutch team-mates, such as Joey van den Berg, Roy Beerens, and Leandro Bacuna.

"When they talked about football, it was also often about Feyenoord. Because I follow European football myself, I, of course, knew Feyenoord as well. It is a big club and therefore an honour that I can play here in the coming years."

Stam managed Reading until March last year and saw enough in the English-born midfielder during his two years in charge to offer him a move to the Eredivisie.

"When Jaap came to Reading three years ago, I broke through. Together with Brian Tevreden, the technical director, he has a major role in my development," said Kelly.

"His style of coaching and the way he wants to play a team fit me. Under Stam, you train hard and that is exactly what I like to do. He loves the way I play and so we had a good relationship."

Kelly added that he had offers from other clubs in England before deciding on Feyenoord.

"I could also have gone to English clubs (Luton Town were interested), but after talking to my family, I decided to choose the Netherlands. This is what I always wanted, to show myself in Europe and now I get that chance," he said.

"I am alone, yes, but my teammates at Feyenoord were immediately very helpful and gave me all sorts of tips about where I can best live. I am also looking forward to that, when I am back I will start looking for an apartment immediately.

"I drove through Rotterdam for the first time yesterday and saw a great, modern, upcoming city that I would like to explore further. In addition, England is just a short flight away, so I expect my family will come over regularly to see me play."

"Since I have been here, everyone keeps talking about how big Feyenoord is and the passion of the supporters. That's exactly what I want.

"Surely every football player has the dream of playing for a large club? Doesn't every player want to experience the extra pressure that comes with it? Playing football for fifty thousand people, being able to feel their expectations, having to win ... I think that only helps you to perform even better."

Kelly becomes the second Irishman after David Connolly to play for Feyenoord.

He is likely to make his full debut for the club in Friday's friendly against Red Bull Salzburg.

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