'When the manager came in strong for me, I really wanted to get it done'

Ireland international John Egan’s difficult decision to move clubs at the start of the season appears to have paid dividends.

John Egan pictured at Monday's press conference.
John Egan pictured at Monday's press conference.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IRELAND INTERNATIONAL JOHN Egan had a tough call to make prior to the start of this season.

The 26-year-old Cork-born centre-back had enjoyed a decent two years with Brentford. Last season, he played 33 times for the Bees, who finished ninth in the Championship — one place above Sheffield United.

However, competition for the centre-back spots at Griffin Park was intense, and Egan was not always a guaranteed starter for the side.

Last July, the Irish defender consequently agreed to join the Blades for a club-record fee of £4 million.

Moving clubs and city is always a risk and the initial signs were not exactly promising. Egan’s first two matches for his new club saw them suffer 2-0 and 3-1 defeats to Swansea and Middlesbrough respectively.

Since then, however, the situation has improved considerably. The club are currently fourth in the table and sit just three points behind leaders Norwich, after 17 games played.

Egan is cautiously optimistic as a result of this encouraging start and the club will be well aware of the need to avoid complacency. Around this time last year, the Blades looked set to challenge for promotion. After beating Leeds on 27 October, they went top of the Championship, only to fall away badly in the second half of the campaign.

Manager Chris Wilder will be hoping history does not repeat itself and that the recruitment of Egan — one of three Irish internationals at the club along with David McGoldrick and Enda Stevens — will help ensure the team play with greater consistency this time around.

Yeah, it was a hard decision [to move], because I was leaving a good Brentford side who were unlucky not to get into the play-offs last year,” he says.

“It was just how much the manager wanted me at Sheffield United. I really saw Sheffield United as a club on the up who could have a real go at promotion this year.

“I think when the manager came in strong for me, I really wanted to get it done. 

“With the start of the season, we’ve shown that we can be in amongst it. Hopefully we can carry it on through Christmas and be in there with a good chance.”

Egan is the son of the legendary late Kerry footballer of the same first name, while his mother Mary also achieved notable success, winning a League of Ireland medal during her football career.

The 26-year-old has been a regular in Ireland squads in recent months, though these sort of opportunities have not come easily.

Aged just 20, on loan at Bradford from Sunderland, he suffered a broken leg. Then-manager of the club Martin O’Neill still awarded him a one-year contract extension, however the Derry native would not be at the Stadium of Light for much longer.

Egan also left the club after being released in the summer of 2014 without having made a first-team breakthrough for the then-Premier League side. It was with Gillingham in the unglamorous surroundings of League One that he began rebuilding his career.

After two successful years at Priestfield Stadium, Egan made the step up to the Championship, and has progressed to the extent that he is now gaining a degree of international recognition.

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The defender has been capped three times by his old Sunderland boss O’Neill, with Egan starting friendlies against Iceland, Mexico and Poland. He will be hoping to add to that tally in the upcoming matches against Northern Ireland and Denmark, but faces stiff competition at the back, with the likes of Shane Duffy, Ciaran Clark, Richard Keogh and Kevin Long all having been preferred to the youngster for recent competitive fixtures.

It’s up to me to come in, try to impress in training and put my hand up to get the chance,” he says.

“It’s up to us to bring our form into camp and show the boss and Roy that we’re up to it.

“I think to learn from players like the man beside me [Seamus Coleman] is great for me. I want to come away and start impressing, trying to get more game time.

“For me to come away and learn from the lads, pick up things in training every day in and around the place — how the lads conduct themselves is big for me to take back to club level, and try to drive that on then to get to the next level.”

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Paul Fennessy

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