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'I spoke to the gaffer and I just have to bide my time'

Ryan Manning on a frustrating start to the season at QPR and his thoughts ahead of the Ireland U21 team’s game with Israel today.

Ryan Manning has found game time hard to come by at OPR this season.
Ryan Manning has found game time hard to come by at OPR this season.
Image: PA Archive/PA Images

IT HAS BEEN a somewhat frustrating start to the season for Ryan Manning at club level.

Since the beginning of the campaign, the Galway native has featured in just two of QPR’s nine Championship matches so far this season, and only one of those games was a start.

“If you look at our team, you’ll see that Josh (Scowen), Mass (Luongo) and Luke (Freeman) have been outstanding since the beginning of the season,” he says. “If you look at the (club) player-of-the-month awards, the three of them have been nominated two months in a row. I spoke to the gaffer and I just have to bide my time, wait for an opportunity to come and hopefully I can take it.

I’m more than happy to accept that the three boys are playing well and I just have to wait for the opportunity to come.”

Manning knows the value of patience. Having joined QPR from Galway United in 2015, he struggled to break into the club’s first team initially.

Under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink last season, with no sign of an imminent breakthrough, the expectation among some observers was that the player would be released come the end of the season, with QPR at the time telling him he could consider alternative options.

Nevertheless, once Ian Holloway took over from Hasselbaink, the English boss swiftly took a shine to Manning, following an eye-catching display from the Irish midfielder in an U23 match.

Since then, the youngster enjoyed a dream few months. After unexpectedly making his senior debut against Wolves on New Year’s Eve, he went on to play 18 times in total in the Championship last season, earning a new contract as a result of his sudden progression to the first team.

Yet while he is at least making the substitutes’ bench this season, the current spell out of the team is a reminder to Manning that he still has plenty of work to do to fully establish himself at senior level.

Given his current dilemma at Loftus Road, the international break has likely come as a relief to the player. On Thursday night, Manning played 88 minutes for the Ireland U21 side, operating just in behind fellow QPR youngster Reece Grego-Cox in what was effectively a 4-4-1-1 formation.

He came close to scoring at one point in the second half, forcing Norway goalkeeper Sondre Rossbach to parry away his powerful strike just inside the box.

Ireland panel The Ireland U21 will be bidding to continue their unbeaten start to European qualification against Israel today. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Otherwise though, it was a difficult evening for Manning and his fellow attackers. Ireland took until the 62nd minute to register a shot on target at Tallaght Stadium, before they threatened to win the game with a brief flurry late on.

However, Noel King’s side were ultimately not too unhappy with a point, which left them top of the group, having gained seven points from a possible nine in their opening three games.

Manning came off injured in the dying minutes, though he plays down the minor setback as “just a knock”.

“It took a few minutes to wear off,” he says. “It was kind of shin on shin.

It was obviously (also) a little bit of cramp from not playing as much football (with QPR) as I wish I was playing.

“It was a tough performance, we had a lot of running to do without the ball, so cramp is to be expected. We have boys that are more than capable of coming on from the sideline (to replace me).”

Manning feels the draw leaves his side in good stead, and does not put them under undue pressure to win the return fixture against Norway.

And while they are currently top, group favourites Germany are just a point behind them having played a game less, while Ireland cannot afford too many draws, given that only the four best runners-up from nine groups will progress to the play-offs ultimately.

We’re on seven points, (Norway are) on two. They’ve played a game more than us.

“I think the onus is on them to beat us (in the return fixture). Out there (on Thursday night), we had the gameplan to make sure we were still in contention towards the end.

They couldn’t break us down, which shows that we’ve a resilient back four. We created a few chances at the end and we could have nicked that 1-0 — (if that happened) we’d all be sitting here saying ‘what a performance’. The gameplan was to make sure we didn’t lose and that was what we did, so I feel it was a decent day overall.

“One team kept the ball and we sat in behind, and that was our gameplan. So a 0-0 draw was a fair enough result, but with a bit of luck, we could have nicked it in the end.”

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Norway’s Martin Odegaard was by some distance the most high-profile on the pitch last Thursday in Tallaght. The 18-year-old midfielder has been regarded as somewhat of a prodigy since coming on the scene in the Norwegian domestic league.

He made his senior debut for Strømsgodset as far back as 2014 and he has already been capped nine times by Norway at senior level.

A host of Europe’s top clubs were lining up for his signature, before he eventually opted to join Real Madrid in 2015.

Since then, however, Odegaard’s progress has slowed. Having struggled to make the breakthrough at Real Madrid, he joined Heerenveen on an 18-month loan last January, scoring one goal in 23 appearances since then for the Dutch top-flight side. On Thursday, aside from the odd flash of brilliance, Ireland comfortably dealt with the much-discussed starlet.

A lot of us play (first-team football) in England,” Manning says. “We’re used to playing against top-quality players who have big reputations to an extent. So I don’t think it fazes anyone. I don’t think anyone looks at him any differently. He’s a very good player, but I don’t think he caused us too many problems.

“A lot of his stuff was done around the halfway line… I don’t think he was that much of a threat. Our back four and our midfield four dealt with him as we would have liked.

“I don’t think he was that influential in the game, and obviously, it was nice to play against players who mix it with the best.”

Manning would likely have been watching on with a degree of envy, as relatively recent U21 players in Sean Maguire and Callum O’Dowda featured for the senior side against Moldova on Friday night.

Nevertheless, the duo’s progress shows that Martin O’Neill is not afraid to give young players a chance, and the fact that the manager has confirmed he will stick around for at least one more qualifying campaign is a further incentive for Manning to do his utmost to impress at club and U21 level, starting against Israel today in a 3.30pm kick-off at Tallaght Stadium.

Look at Seanie Maguire… It definitely instills that belief that you can play 21s, go over to England if you’re playing in Ireland and if you’re playing well, the call-up does come.

“As long as you show you can add to the squad, he does pick players. He doesn’t just stick to the tried and tested, he does like to introduce someone who deserves it.

It definitely gives all of us hope in the squad now… It’s good for everyone in the 21s given that we’re playing well and getting results. It’ll turn his head a little bit hopefully and a few of us might get call-ups in the next campaign.

“The squad, I wouldn’t say it’s old, but there are a few boys in it that the World Cup is probably the last thing they want to do before they retire.

“So there are going to be some positions (up for grabs) in the squad over the next years. Hopefully, if we’re doing well, a few of the young boys can get the call-up and get involved.”

Republic of Ireland U21 squad to face Israel:

Goalkeepers: Kieran O’Hara (Manchester United), Liam Bossin (Nottingham Forest).

Defenders: Danny Kane (Huddersfield), Ryan Sweeney (Stoke City, on loan at Bristol Rovers), Shaun Donnellan (West Bromwich Albion, on loan at Walsall), Declan Rice (West Ham United), Corey Whelan (Liverpool), Ryan Delaney (Burton Albion, on loan at Cork City).

Midfielders: Josh Cullen (West Ham, on loan at Bolton Wanderers), Harry Charsley (Everton), Conor Shaughnessy (Leeds United), Liam Kinsella (Walsall), Jake Mulraney (Inverness Caledonian Thistle), Connor Ronan (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Connor Dimaio (Chesterfield), Rory Hale (Galway United), Dessie Hutchinson (Brighton and Hove Albion).

Attackers: Reece Grego Cox (QPR), Ryan Manning (QPR), Ronan Curtis (Derry City), Joe Quigley (Bournemouth, on loan at Newport County).

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Paul Fennessy

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