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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Gareth Fullerton

Gerard Lyttle happy to stand by Shea Charles vow, and says more will follow

Gerard Lyttle has revealed how a promise made to teenager Shea Charles went on to reap reward for the young defender and Northern Ireland.

The Manchester City teen has enjoyed a rapid rise in international football, progressing through the Under 17 and 19 ranks before making his senior debut under Ian Baraclough.

The 19-year-old has gone on to earn four caps after making his debut against Greece in the UEFA Nations League.

Read more: Northern Ireland boss Gerard Lyttle on emerging talent, eligibility fight and future ambition

Lyttle predicted Charles' rise from an early juncture, and even made a vow to the player when he was still starring for the Under 19s.

The Northern Ireland Under 17 and 19 boss said: “I remember talking to Shea Charles in the Czech Republic the day before a game. He said he loved it here and I told him he would be playing in our senior team within a year.

“Shea looked at me as if I was mad and said ‘really?’. He said he would be happy just getting into the Under 21s, but I just told him to continue what he was doing with Man City and with us, and he would soon be in the Northern Ireland senior squad.

Gerard Lyttle will be two years in the job as Northern Ireland U17 and 19 manager this March (Jonathan Porter/PressEye)

“Our word was true to him. He ended up playing for Ian Baraclough.

“It is good to be able to say this, and have the confidence to tell young players. Ian gave opportunities to young players and should be commended on that.

"Shea is a quiet lad, and he is so cool on the pitch. Nothing flusters him, and when you give him a job he does it.

"Being in that environment at Man City every day, and being coached by someone like Pep Guardiola, is also beneficial for us."

Another player Lyttle has high hopes for is goalkeeper Josh Clarke.

Clarke represented England, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland at youth level before earning his first call-up with Northern Ireland.

"People don't realise the work that went on behind the scenes to get him to commit to Northern Ireland," Lyttle added.

"This kid could have gone to the Republic of Ireland, England or Sweden, but he came with us. That was a big thing.

Josh Clarke (INPHO/Presseye/William Cherry)

"And every little thing we promised him we fulfilled. We kept our word to him, in terms of getting involved with the senior team and showing him that pathway.

"There is a lot of work that goes into eligibility to convince players to make the right choice and come to Northern Ireland and stay here.

"For me, it is very important we work on eligibility. We know we have a great bunch of home-based players who have come through our system.

"But we also rely on players from other countries who qualify for Northern Ireland. We are currently and actively looking at bringing players in to bolster the quality we already have.

"I have sat in on Zoom calls with players and their families. I spent hours on the phone with Josh Clarke and his father and met with them to convince them that this was the right move.

"And when they do come to us, we want them to leave with a good experience behind them in terms of professionalism, training methods, the camps and everything else.

"You want them wanting more, and you have to manage that as well."


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