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'I would be amazed if he doesn’t play at the highest level at some point in his career'

18-year-old Irish defender Nathan Collins has been linked with a move to Manchester United in recent weeks.

IRISH DEFENDER NATHAN Collins has been tipped to play “at the highest level” by Stoke City’s incumbent academy chief Gareth Owen amid interest from Manchester United.

Nathan Collins Irish defender, Nathan Collins. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The Premier League club have been linked with a move for the 18-year-old on the recommendation of former United and Potters midfielder, Darren Fletcher.

The centreback, who captained Ireland at last year’s U17 European Championships, made three senior appearances for Stoke last season.

Speaking to the Stoke Sentinel, Owen insisted that Collins has all the attributes, on and off the pitch, to make it in the top flight.

“He’s a fantastic player,” said Owen, who will replace Gareth Jennings in charge of Stoke’s youth set-up this summer.

When I worked with the U23s he was the player that stood out the most, not purely because of his footballing ability but also off the field; his confidence in himself, his sacrifice and how he lives his life, how he is a leader, a communicator, how other players respect him.

“These are all old school values that can quickly be forgotten, but they are what make a player.

“He is doing everything he can to make himself better and that, matched with a fantastic football ability, means that he’s got a hell of a chance.

I would be amazed if he doesn’t play at the highest level at some point during his career.

“He made his debut at 17 and people forget how young he is because of his physical stature and also his mental stature. He’s getting the opportunity and he will go on and have a long and fantastic career. He has all the attributes on and off the field that you’d want in a professional footballer.”

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Nathan Collins Collins keeps possession against Bosnia & Herzgovina at last summer's U17 Euros. Source: Andrew Fosker/INPHO

Owen added that the Leixlip native’s composure when adapting to first-team football was what set him apart from others in the academy system.

“I speak regularly to some of the first team players and they all speak highly of him and how he adjusted to the first team environment.

You can prepare players all you want but you never quite know in the cut and thrust of a first team training game when a senior player is on their case for giving the ball away or making a mistake.

“How are they going to react? It’s tough, it’s cut-throat because it’s people’s livelihoods that are on the line.

But he’s comfortable organising first team players and talking on the pitch to those more experienced than him – and he has got around him, in terms of Ryan [Shawcross] and Danny [Batth] is players who are proven and role models he can learn from.

“How far he goes this season is down to him and how he performs in pre-season.

“Players’ pathways will always open up if they play well and he has to concentrate on having a good pre-season, which I know he will do his best to do so.”

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is understood to be keen to sign more young talent following years of marquee signings at the club and Ireland’s Collins appears to fit the bill.

Gavan Casey is joined by Murray Kinsella and Sean Farrell for a review of the 2018/19 season, and cast an eye forward to next year and the Rugby World Cup in Japan.:

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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