5 players to watch out for: U21 edition

With squad announcement time coming up at U21 level, it is no better time to look at who could play a bigger role within the team with San Marino approaching. Meet the in-form players who are ensuring Jim Crawford will have a selection headache.

Emmanuel Adegboyega

It was almost a year to this day Adegboyega made his Drogheda United debut. Despite no one expecting the youngster to play a big part, Emmanuel was forced into the side and adapted brilliantly. Just four months later Emmanuel was on his way to Norwich. Recently he has been playing on loan for Walsall and has been part of their ongoing run without dropping points. When did that start you may ask? When he came on for his league debut and scored a winner. Two goals, two clean sheets, and a Man of the Match award in the past four, and the towering defender is on a similar trajectory to Jake O’Brien. The defender also is in the top percentile for duels and tackles won. Next off the list will be an Ireland underage debut we hope.

Ollie O’Neill

It has been a long two and a half years for Ollie O’Neill since bursting onto the scene at Irish underage level. He scored a crucial goal against Sweden and since he has impressed for Fulham at underage level, but never made a first-team squad. His loan move to Derry City didn’t work out as planned, however, there was never doubt on the level of player he can be. Fast forward just 9 months and he is starring for play-off hopefuls Leyton Orient. He is a silky smooth player operating off the left or as a 10. Similar in ways to Mikey Johnston, the now 21-year-old has five g/a in six starts since leaving Fulham. If Andrew Moran is to be with the senior squad, there is certainly a path where O’Neill retakes his creator-in-chief role under Crawford.

Tayo Adaramola

Sean Roughan has been great for Ireland this campaign, but he also has been great for Lincoln as a left-sided center-half. A move to a more natural position for Roughan would allow Tayo Adaramola to play in his most natural role, left-wing back. The left-sided player has played plenty at left full-back but it is clear the attacking side of his game is his strongest. The Molenbeek loanee (yes, another potential Jake O’Brien situation) has been knocking on Crawfords’ door for a while now. He started last campaign in a comfortable win against Montenegro, but he has been unfortunate as he has had Championship and League One starters ahead of him in the pecking order. This could be the Crystal Palace youngsters opportunity into the being a regular at U21 level.

Nathan Fraser

Having only turned 19, the Wolves striker has bagged two goals and an assist in just six games this season, none of which he started. It has been a year and a half since Fraser featured for Ireland at underage level, but it is understood Ireland is firmly on his mind. With Sinclair Armstrong increasing his senior chances and Emakhu playing well on the wing, this could be Nathan Fraser’s big opportunity to break into the U21 side.

Bosun Lawal

You may be asking why is one of the key men on this list. Well, the answer is Lawal has excelled as a midfielder lately. Although he was good at center-half, a couple of mistakes cost the U21 last window. Lawal should now be pushed into midfield where he can use his strengths. Of course, Lawal is strong given his build, but his smoothness on the ball is what separates him from the rest. Lawal in his new role under Charlie Adam at Fleetwood could translate very well to the U211 set-up, allowing the previously mentioned Adegboyega to slot in at center-back.

Do not be surprised if any of the above take over as the next big thing under Crawfords’ wing this March.

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