It’s Szmodics Time

Sammie Szmodics (Credit: irishtimes.com)

Some Ireland fans (including myself) were apprehensive about Sammie Szmodics. We were worried that we would never see him play in a green jersey. So, there was a sense of relief when interim boss John O’Shea named him in the squad for the upcoming friendly double header against Belgium and Switzerland.

Szmodics received a first Ireland call-up in 2021 but pulled out with a shoulder injury. Then he withdrew due to personal reasons after being included in the squad for the Euro qualifiers against Greece and Gibraltar in October 2023. Around this time, rumours began to swirl about his commitment to the Ireland cause. Was he simply not interested in representing the boys in green? Likewise, Colchester-born Szmodics also qualifies to represent Hungary. Were Hungary circling to try to include the gifted player in their plans for the upcoming European Championship in Germany? Thankfully, this was not the case.

In action for Blackburn Rovers (Credit: lancs.live)

Szmodics himself well and truly put that rumour to bed; “It was all nonsense, really. My grandad was Hungarian – that’s where the surname comes from. It is just something that never interested me. Their manager has come out and said what he has said about me [manager Marco Rossi suggested the Szmodics camp had leaked to the media an offer of talks with Hungary]. I am not really sure where it came from as I have never spoken to anyone from that country. I am not really sure where it has come from because I am fully focused on playing for Ireland. I sorted my passport for Ireland years ago and I’ve been fully focused on getting into the camps and getting into the squads, and hopefully I’ll do it this weekend.”

This week he surprisingly said that he was overlooked for the last Ireland squad, named by Stephen Kenny. He explained; “I was disappointed for the November camp that I didn’t get the call, but ultimately it’s the manager’s decision. I thought I was doing enough at club level, but he chose to go with other people.”

In training with Ireland this week (Credit: bbc.com)

However, he jumped at the chance to link up with Ireland for these next two challenging fixtures, “When I got the phone call from John [O’Shea], it was a no-brainer for me. I am excited to hopefully get it [a debut] on the weekend.” So then, music to the ears of Ireland fans.

Some people may point to Szmodics only being a Championship player, but that would be doing a huge disservice to the man. The 28-year-old is having a terrific season and is the current top scorer in the division with 21 league goals (27 in all competitions). In this blistering form he has also picked up the EFL Championship Player of the Month for November 2023 scoring six goals in four matches. No mean feat considering that Blackburn are stuck at the wrong end of the Championship.

Szmodics with his EFL player of the month award for November (Credit: skysports.com)

Ireland have sorely lacked creativity, especially an attacking midfielder who likes to run forward, get in the box and score goals. A key beneficiary of his inclusion could be Evan Ferguson, who would thrive on having Szmodics providing him with support in the box.

After earning his move to Blackburn after an impressive spell at Peterborough, he has flourished with the Ewood Park outfit. Reflecting on his current rich vein of form, Szmodics said “I am just playing with a different confidence at Blackburn. We lost a lot of senior boys so it felt like I had to step up on the leadership side of things. Maturing off the pitch has brought my form to where it is on it. I just feel if I get a chance now, I’m not going to miss, and it’s a great place to be in.” So, Ireland is getting a player in his prime, scoring goals for fun and brimming with confidence.

Confident. Szmodics is in outstanding form this season (Credit: skysports.com)

It was a relief to see Szmodics post on his Instagram account last weekend a picture of his Irish passport en route to the Ireland get together. Saturday against Belgium should finally bring about his long-awaited debut for Ireland. And I for one am excited about what this talented player can bring to the table.

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