USUALLY, with the summer transfer window approaching, there would be a lot of speculation surrounding League of Ireland players and which ones could be potentially be moving across the water.
Covid-19 has meant that football is now more focused on how to get the game up and running again and not on the recruitment of players.
Football will return at some stage, and clubs from the United Kingdom will want some new faces in their team.
The pandemic has changed football. Clubs have lost a lot of money and don’t have the funds available to spending large amounts on transfers this summer.
There will be sides that will be desperate to sell players in order to keep their club in business. League of Ireland clubs aren’t blessed with wealth, and some clubs could find themselves in a position where they have to sell their top assets.
Clubs in the UK are going to be working with a reduced budget for next season, which is why players from our domestic league might be seen as a cheap and attractive purchase. There’s no doubt about it — the UK clubs see players in the League of Ireland as the bargain aisle.
They know that clubs in our domestic league don’t have the resources to turn down offers and that more times than not the players will want to push through a transfer anyway.
UK clubs have had many steals down through the years from the League of Ireland, most notable Kevin Doyle and Shane Long, who roughly cost Reading €100,000 to buy from Cork City.
There might not have been much football played in Ireland this season, but that won’t stop English clubs from taking our most talented players from the league.
These are the players I would expect could be about to make the move.
Jack Byrne is, without doubt, the most talented player in the league and the player that is going to attract the biggest transfer fee. The Shamrock Rovers player showed in his maiden season in the League of Ireland that he is above the rest in the league and should be playing at a higher level.
The question is why it never worked out for Byrne during his previous stint in the UK?
It’s not like he just played for one club, failed and returned home. The midfielder was at five clubs in the UK. It wouldn’t be a case of not being talented enough, because I think everyone can see just how special a player he is.
Byrne’s attitude might have been the problem, a factor which could yet have consequences for the Rovers’ player.
Potential suitors won’t just judge Byrne on what he can do on the pitch. They will also be looking at what he brings to the dressing room and managing Byrne the personality, as opposed to the player might be too much for some managers.
However, Byrne has shown with his performances with the Republic of Ireland that he is capable of playing at a very high level, and I’m sure Mick McCarthy wouldn’t have kept selecting the 24-year-old for squads, if he felt he was too difficult to deal with.
It must have been tough for Byrne going to the UK at first. There was so much expectation on him and he might not have been able to handle that pressure. I’m sure this time round, were he to leave Rovers, the midfielder would be a success.
James Talbot is another player who managed to force his way into the Irish squad last year and impressed in his first season in the League of Ireland.
There was always going to be pressure on whoever replaced Shane Supple as the Bohemians number 1, but Talbot’s performances were immense and effortless.
The goalkeeper has already been across the water, having spent time at Sunderland and Darlington, and would be more than capable of returning to the UK.
Unlike Rovers, Bohemians don’t have the finances to turn down respectable offers for their players, and might find themselves in a situation of having to try to find a replacement goalkeeper in two successive seasons.
At 23, Talbot is still very young for a goalkeeper, and clubs would be willing to take a chance on a keeper that clearly can keep improving.
Talbot might see it as too soon to return to the UK, but with the future of the domestic league in doubt, he might not have a choice if he wants to play competitive league football again before next year.
Daniel Mandroiu is another player Bohemians could struggle to keep hold of.
The former Brighton player had been the standout player in the league at the beginning of last season before injuries hampered his development.
Mandroiu is a player I was surprised to see sign a contract extension with Bohemians last season because he is more than capable of playing at a high level in England.
Mandroiu’s strength is his timing of runs off a striker.
He is the kind of goalscoring midfielder that every team needs in their side.
He found himself out of the Bohemians team at the beginning of this season but was showing glimpses of his old shelf before the suspension of the league.
Mandroiu is unplayable on his day, but questions have been asked about his attitude.
At 21, Mandroiu has a bright future in the game and how far he goes, is down to him and the way he conducts himself.