Bohs kids starting to click FOR LONG
A YOUNG batch of returned emigrants have found at home at Dalymount Park, and that could help Bohemians exceed their fans' expectations this season.
After one round of games in the 2015 Premier Division, Bohs are the unlikely table-toppers, thanks to a 3-0 win away to Limerick on the opening weekend.
Old stagers like Dean Delaney, Jason Byrne and Dave Mulcahy (combined age: 107) will play key roles for Bohs this season but so far Adam Evans (20) and Keelan Dillon (21) have caught the eye while Adam Wixted (just turned 20) could get a chance for his competitive debut in tonight's EA Sports Cup game at home to Athlone Town.
Evans (Bohs), Dillon (Athlone) and Wixted (Drogheda) all played in the League of Ireland last season, with varying degrees of success, after spells across the water with clubs like Burnley, Inverness, Derby and St Mirren.
Players who come home to England often take time to settle and Evans - no goals, one start and six sub appearances for Bohs last season after a summer move - is a case in point, but he's already off the mark this season as he scored the opening goals in Saturday's win over Limerick.
And Bohs boss Keith Long, who had a spell with Stoke City as a teenager, knows that former exiles can come good if given the space.
"It does take time for a lad to settle and then kick-start his career when he comes home, it's not easy when you have had the disappointment of England not working out," says Long.
"You are adjusting to being back home again, some of them are getting used to being in employment having been full-time pros and are trying to combine their football with a job or studying, that takes time.
"We have seen plenty of players who have real ability but, for whatever reason, have been unable to make the grade in the UK, some take longer than others.
"We have a few here in our squad who have been across the water, now they have a chance to enjoy their football at a consistent level and progress," added Long, who his his first proper home gamee as Bohs boss tonight.
"I have been aware of Adam Evans since the schoolboy days and I tried to sign him for Athlone before Owen Heary got him to Bohs.
"Adam has pace but he's a big lad as well, he's the kind of forward that defenders hate playing against. He had a good pre-season and he scored last week so his confidence will be high, he has worked hard over the pre-season and this is a chance for him to establish himself in the team.
"Keelan Dillon is another one who was away for a while. He did really well for Athlone last year and I know the Bohs fans will enjoy having him at the club this season. He is an honest lad but he has real quality as well, he's not afraid to put his foot on the ball, he was great for us the other night in Limerick.
"And we have Adam Wixted as well, another lad who's back home after being in the UK. He didn't make the bench for our game last weekend but he will get chances this season."
On the back of that 3-0 win in Limerick, Long is now trying to play down expectations.
"I was happy with the performance and it was good to get the season started with a win," he says.
"But it's very early days yet and you can't read too much into one win. We're just glad to get off the mark with a win but we have to build on it, do what we can in this EA Sports Cup game tonight and then get ready for Galway at home in the league on Friday night."
Long will make changes for the clash with his former club Athlone tonight but still aims for a win. "It's a competition we want to do well in so we will have a strong side out," he says.