Laszlo Geczo/INPHO Shamrock Rovers' Justin Ferizaj (file pic).
Stephen Bradley coy on Tottenham-linked youngster's absence
Justin Ferizaj has been playing with Shamrock Rovers’ U19s team recently.

SHAMROCK ROVERS boss Stephen Bradley was reluctant to go into too much detail in explaining Justin Ferizaj’s recent absence from the first-team squad.

The 18-year-old midfielder is one of Irish football’s hottest prospects.

Last year, Ferizaj played a number of games both domestically and in Europe for the Hoops.

During the off-season, he spent time on trial at Tottenham, while he has also been linked with Sampdoria among other European clubs.

However, despite being available and training regularly, Bradley has opted against selecting the Irish underage international in his matchday squads recently and he was absent again last night for the Hoops’ 0-0 draw with Shelbourne.

Instead, he has lined out for the club’s U19s team in recent weeks and he is expected to feature in their Leinster Senior Cup match against Bray Wanderers on Monday.

“He’s working hard behind the scenes to be fair to him,” Bradley told reporters after the game. 

“We know the quality Justin has and he knows he’s part of the group, there’s no point bringing him here and sitting him in the stand when it’s freezing cold. But we know he’s a top player.”

When Bradley was asked whether Ferizaj was absent from the squad because he felt Rovers didn’t need him at the moment, he replied: “There are a few things. We know he’s there and he’s in a good space at the moment and I’ve no doubt we’ll see him back in the pitch in a few weeks’ time.

“There are little things that we need to be better at. Justin’s aware of that and we’ve had good conversations. So he’s aware of what he needs to improve.”

Bradley also added that Ferizaj was “a good kid” and “I like him,” while saying of his recent stint at Tottenham: “Sometimes we allow that, sometimes we don’t. It depends, we talk to the agent and the player’s parents. There’s a lot at play there that comes into our thinking, and we’ve decided to allow Justin to go to Tottenham.

“Sometimes we do allow that with a couple of players and we have done it over the years.”

The manager also couldn’t say too much about Graham Burke, who appeared to have a disagreement with a Rovers fan after the final whistle.

“I don’t know if it was a relative, I just heard [about] it there. I don’t know what happened. I’ll talk to him now when I get in.”

When it was put to him that he may have taken exception to criticism even if it was from a relative, Bradley added: “That’s Graham. Sometimes he’s not happy to see me. When I take him off I can’t talk to him for five minutes, he’s emotional.”

As for the match itself, the Hoops’ manager said he was far happier with the performance in comparison to Monday’s chaotic 4-4 draw at home to Cork City, despite again only coming away with a point, with the reigning champions still remaining without a win after five games.

“I thought [Shelbourne would] have a bit more of a go but I think that’s down to the respect they’ve given us but also how we took control of the game very early. I thought they would have come out a little bit more

“If the players aren’t running or fighting or competing, and we’re not playing at our levels, then it’s a worry for everyone, it’s plain to see but that’s not the case. If you watch the performances and not the results, we’re very close to hitting top gear and tonight, we could walk away with 2-0 and everyone talks about it in a different light.

“As a performance, I really liked tonight, a lot of balance, a lot of control. I like where we are. I don’t like the results or the points total, that’s quite obvious, but I like where we are.”

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