Dutch loan move works out for Man City Irish starlet Jack Byrne
THE decision to go Dutch is already paying off for Irish teenager Jack Byrne.
Name-checked by figures like Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira as he enjoys a steady diet of first team football in the Eredivisie with SC Cambuur, having agreed a season-long loan move from Manchester City the 19-year-old, who is back home in Ireland this week on international duty with the U21 side at home to Lithuania tomorrow, knows that he still has a long, long way to go in the game.
But by taking himself away from the clogged-up scene in England and moving to Holland, the first Irishman to play in the Dutch top flight in over a decade, he feels he had done the right thing.
"I am out of my comfort zone because I am not at Manchester City for the moment and I was very keen to do that," Byrne told The Herald.
"I had to take myself out of that comfort zone. You can stay in England, doing the same things with the same people, so why not try something new, something different? I had signed a new three-year deal with City earlier this year so I had options, I could have stayed at City and just played away in the EDS league, I could have gone on loan in England but that would all have been part of the same comfort zone.
"So when the chance was there to come to Holland, on loan for a year, I was delighted to take it and see how it went," added Byrne, aware that his move to Holland - which was given the all-clear by Patrick Vieira, boss of his U21 team at City - has pricked the attention of the Ireland management. "It's great to hear that Roy Keane knows who I am, but even though people are bigging me up I have only started five games here and I have a long, long way to go before I can think about impressing him."
His introduction to life in Holland was interrupted and it took him time to get up to speed. "I got injured 30 seconds into my debut, that's not an ideal start, is it?" he asks.
"But I am back fit now, I have started the last five games for Cambuur and the other week I played against PSV. I was thinking back to the early days, when I was out playing for St Kevin's Boys and asked if I wanted to play against a club like PSV, I'd have bitten your hand off. The PSV game was great as I had my family over there to see it, and I think they were glad to see how I was getting on there."
Cambuur don't have too many imports from this part of the world but they have taken the young Dubliner to their hearts. "They even have an Irish flag with my name and the club crest on it, that's amazing to see," says Byrne. "This is all new to me, hearing fans scream my name. For me, a 19-year-old going over from Dublin, it was a brilliant experience."
Handed the coveted No. 10 shirt by the club when he signed, Byrne was determined to prosper and despite Cambuur's struggles - they are second from bottom in the league - he's keen to do well.
He's also determined to succeed at international level. Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane are aware of his progress and a scouting mission to Holland, especially for Cambuur's league game against Ajax next month, would not be a wasted trip, especially as so few of the current senior squad are getting games at Premier League level in England.
For now, Byrne is focused on delivering for the U21s. Aware that Ireland have never qualified for the Euro finals at U21 level, Byrne says the current group under Noel King are determined to change that, a good start already on their side with back to back wins over Andorra to set them up for the imminent tests against Lithuania (tomorrow) and Italy (Tuesday).
"There are a lot of very talented players in this U21 squad, we're not like the old-fashioned Irish teams that people talk about, we fight for each other but we can play ball too," Byrne says, keen to fight back against the mood of negativity around the game here.
"I think it's lazy journalism from people when they say we have no players coming through. We have lads like Alex O'Hanlon and Daniel Cleary at Liverpool, I hate hearing that we don't have talent any more. Maybe young players need more of a chance, and a loan move could work for others like it did for me, but it can't be all doom and gloom."