Thursday 23 January 2020

Patience has been a virtue as Manning works hard to keep the dream alive

Leeds United’s Mateusz Klich battles with QPR’s Ryan Manning at Elland Road last week
Leeds United’s Mateusz Klich battles with QPR’s Ryan Manning at Elland Road last week

International football, it turns out, will have to wait as far as Ryan Manning is concerned, as positive comments from the Ireland manager have not led to a place in the final squad for the looming international double header in Dublin.

Good thing, therefore, that the versatile QPR player is used to playing the waiting game.

As a 16-year-old in Galway, he was desperate to get away to England, only for his parents to insist that he was going nowhere until he had sat the Leaving Cert.

The move, when it did come, was later in life but it's turned out well for Manning, now 23, as he's come through the ups and downs of life as an Irish immigrant in London to build himself a career, the one-time striker enjoying a successful run at left back with QPR.

"I was 18 or 19 going over. That wasn't my decision," Manning says, having joined QPR from Galway United almost five years ago.

"I wanted to go earlier but my parents said I had to do the Leaving Cert before I went away.

"People take different paths, plenty of lads go away at 14 and make it, some go at 19, I needed that time to have the back-up plan, I didn't want to have all my eggs in one basket, worrying about where I'd be if football didn't work out.

"So staying on and doing the Leaving was the right path for me - my parents thought so anyway - and it definitely worked for me, it allowed me to be that bit more grown up when I came across, to be able to deal with situations."

Even by still being with a Championship club, he has shown resilience: of the eight League of Ireland players exported to UK clubs in 2015, including Manning, the majority (such as Pat Hoban, Michael Duffy and Chris Forrester) came back home.

Manning had hurdles, including a stint out on loan and spells out of the QPR team but he says success abroad is as much a result of passing mental tests as anything else.

"I don't think you will speak to a footballer who left Ireland and went to England who'll say he had it easy, there is no easy path. You have hundreds of lads who came over and didn't make the grade, had to go home," he says.

"It's not easily done, you need to learn to work with different people, cope with managers, keep your head in difficult situations but also keep believing in yourself, that's key to making it over here as it's so competitive.

"You need to manage it with your head more so than your ability, you need to keep a level head to allow you deal with the ups and downs as this is an industry filled with hard times. You have to be able to manage them.

"Moving away from family is not easy, you have to immerse yourself in football and give it your all, not let outside things distract you. It's hard, but I am here almost five years now, I am doing ok and still enjoying it."

He's thrilled to see the success of fellow Galway native (and Mervue United graduate) Aaron Connolly, four years his junior but a player he knows as Ryan's brother, Ronan, was a team-mate with Connolly.

"There are more sad stories about the boys who don't make it than there are about the successes, so when you see someone like Aaron, it's great to see," says Manning.

He has even ditched his attacking career to become a left back.

"I came over as a striker, I liked getting the goals, the glory of it," says Manning, enjoying a good spell under current boss Mark Warburton.

"But I was asked to play at left full and it's worked. You can't be a one-trick pony, you need to adapt to what your club needs. Getting into the first team is crucial so you do what you can to get into the team.

"I have scored two goals and have four assists this season, for a left back that's not bad."

Having been named in the provisional senior Ireland squad last week, Manning (surprisingly) didn't make the cut for the final squad.

Speaking before the squad was finalised he said: "International football is something that comes as a result of your club football. If you are too eager maybe it won't happen. As long as I am playing well for my club, everything else will follow".

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