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'He’s really developing into a fine player... He’s now dictating games'

New Ireland U21 boss Jim Crawford thinks highly of Jayson Molumby.

Jayson Molumby has impressed for Ireland U21s.
Jayson Molumby has impressed for Ireland U21s.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

NEW IRELAND U21 boss Jim Crawford believes Jayson Molumby should be regarded as an example for other youngsters to follow.

The 20-year-old Waterford native has impressed both for Ireland U21s and Brighton U23s in recent times.

And this season, Molumby has progressed even further. A loan move to Millwall has proved fruitful, with the midfielder making 33 appearances in all competitions for the Championship side, who were eighth and chasing promotion to the Premier League before the coronavirus crisis brought a halt to proceedings.

Molumby regularly captained the Irish U21s during Stephen Kenny’s tenure, and has been tipped to make the jump to the senior side by many pundits. Crawford told The42 that Molumby will remain as skipper of the 21s during his tenure if available.

“You can’t have players that should be playing football that are comfortable playing U23s,” Crawford explains. “They’ve got to be pushing themselves and always asking coaches questions. ‘Should I go out on loan?’ And challenge themselves to the best possible standard. European football is a step up for players who are playing U23s. That’s why I’ve always said ‘try to get into your first team or get playing regularly on loan’.

“You only look at the likes of Jayson Molumby. He’s gone from Brighton [on loan] to Millwall, and he’s really developing into a fine player. That to me is exactly what you’re looking for.

Yes, he was at Brighton U23s, but then he challenged himself for Millwall. He’s now dictating games. He’s like a man. Jayson’s Jayson. He’ll demand the best from other players. He’s talking to older professionals. And that’s what Jayson brings to the game. For me, he’s a great example.

“I’ve a hell of a lot of time for Jayson. He’s great to have around the place. He’s a winner who can play football as well.

“I’ve been talking to Jayson on the phone and he’s in good spirits.

“He’s one of them that you never know what will happen down the line. He really is having an excellent season with Millwall.”

Prior to accepting the main job, Crawford was part of Stephen Kenny’s backroom staff with the 21s. And before then, he had extensive experience working in Irish underage football, including as manager of the U18s for three years, in addition to working as assistant to Paul Doolin with the 19s.

“The bulk of players I’ve worked with [at different age levels]. We went to Spain a few years ago. We beat Belgium. We beat Holland. And we gave England a good game. Quite a few of the players in the 21s were involved in that. Adam Idah, Jason Knight [among others].

“This current group really is a talented bunch, and above all, they’re hard-working players. They want to learn. They want the attention to detail that’s required to play at this level. They’re asking questions. It’s great to see. And it makes me proud.

“Quite a few of them as well I’ve worked with in the Emerging Talent programme. Groups at U14s and U15s. The likes of Conor Masterson, Dara O’Shea. And it doesn’t surprise me that they’ve broken into the first team [at club level], because of their commitment and desire to become the best possible footballers they can be.”

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tottenham-hotspur-v-norwich-city-fa-cup-fifth-round-tottenham-hotspur-stadium Adam Idah has impressed this season for both Norwich and Ireland U21s. Source: EMPICS Sport

One player who has shown considerable potential over the past 12 months is Adam Idah. As well as impressing for the 21s, the 19-year-old Cork native hit a memorable hat-trick for Norwich in the FA Cup against Preston last January, while making his full Premier League debut against Man United a week later.

“I was at Old Trafford for Adam Idah’s debut and I was extremely proud of him,” Crawford recalls. “I’ve been with Adam a long time and he’s a fantastic individual too.

I’ve said it to him already: ‘You’ve got to keep going. It’s only the start.’ I can easily name so many young players that play five or 10 games for their club and are never heard from again. It’s important that they’re humble and they don’t lose that work ethic that got them to that position. And there are other things. They’ve got to stay injury-free, train right, eat right, all those different strands come into it too. One thing’s for sure, you understand what it means to them to be professional footballers and that’s what really impresses me about them.

“A couple of years ago, there were certain people saying ‘there’s no talent coming through’ and what have you. It always frustrated me, because I said there is and players who are well-coached at every level, and it was only going to be a matter of time before they make an impression at the top level, and they have, but it’s only the start. We can’t get carried away. The clubs that they’re with have got to look after them. And hopefully, we’ll see more of them coming through.”

It’s inevitable that if players such as Idah continue to progress, they will earn a promotion to the senior side soon, which will conceivably make Crawford’s task of qualifying for the Euros more difficult.

However, the former Newcastle player understands that such challenges are part and parcel of his role, and the fact that Kenny used 36 players in 12 fixtures over the course of 2019 without suffering unduly suggests there is plenty of depth to the squad.

“What I want is players to be promoted to the senior team, that’s for sure,” Crawford adds. “Part of the measure of this job is getting players to the senior team stage.

“My job would be to develop and nurture up-and-coming talent. But as well, you’ve got to be successful. You’ve got to try to get onto the bigger stage, test these against biggest [underage] players in Europe.

“Winning is also part of development. So that’s important at my level.

“But there’ll be nobody happier than me promoting these players to the senior team when they’re ready.

“There are other [younger] players coming through. You only have to look at Joe Hodge, Jonathan Afolabi, he’s on loan at Dunfermline from Celtic at the minute. You see Ryan Cassidy scoring goals for Watford [at underage level].

“But they’ve got to keep performing at their club, playing at the highest possible level they can. That’s hugely important.”

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Paul Fennessy

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