Jim Crawford backs Troy Parrott to come good for 21s

by Dave Donnelly

Republic of Ireland Under-21 boss Jim Crawford has backed Dublin duo Troy Parrott and Michael Obafemi to turn around their fortunes in England.

Buckingham Street native Parrott has moved to Ipswich Town after a disappointing spell with Millwalll while Obafemi was denied a loan with Swansea due to a hamstring injury.

The Dubliners are both senior internationals eligible for the next Under-21 qualifying campaign and Jobstown’s Crawford thinks they both have bright futures despite setbacks.

“You look at Troy Parrott at the minute, I think he needs a goal,” Crawford said after Ireland learned their group opponents in the qualifiers for the UEFA Under-21 European Championship.

“He’s still playing well in his general game. There’s been massive hype surrounding both players but they’re still young. I just think Troy needs a goal to kick on.

“He is a fantastic talent, an unbelievable finisher, but he’s still a young boy. We’ve got to give him time.

“Troy has to work hard at his game, listen to the coaches he’s working with to develop and reach his full potential.”

By a turn of fate, Ireland will face three of their opponents from the Euro 2021 campaign – Italy, Sweden and Luxembourg – as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.

Defeats away to Italy and home to Iceland denied Ireland a first-ever Under-21 finals place this summer in Hungary and Slovenia.

Wins home and away to Sweden, by 4-1 and 3-1 scorelines respectively, offered a vision of the future, however, as did the passing style of football.

Dublin-born, London-raised Obafemi has found game-time hard to come by as a series of injuries have halted his progress since breaking into the Saints team at 18.

His fox-in-the-box instincts have invited comparisons to Robbie Keane but his latest injury setback scuppered a move to Championship high-fliers Swansea.

Crawford has backed the striker to come back stronger from injury, however, and deliver on the promise both Mark Hughes and Ralph Hassenhuttl have recognised.

“Michael unfortunately suffered a bad injury where he had to have an operation,” Crawford said.

“That happens. I think he was due to start against Liverpool with Southampton’s first team so it just shows how close and unfortunate he was not to clock up another appearance for the firsts.

“He could have scored. Who knows what could have happened? But again, Michael is a big enough character to get over this injury and get on with his football.”

Another young Irish player, Leixlip’s Nathan Collins, has been making waves since breaking through under former Shamrock Rovers manager Michael O’Neill at Stoke.

Collins, the son of former Ireland under-21 international Dave and nephew of Eamonn, has attracted bids from Burnley and Leeds United over the latest English transfer window.

“Nathan, with regards to potential, he could be a top centre half,” Crawford told reporters today. “It’s one thing having potential, but [it’s another] having the attitude, and he certainly has the attitude. He has a fantastic work ethic about him and he’s always willing to learn.”

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