JOHN EGAN is a man that is fully determined to seize the opportunity of playing English Premier League football and to test himself against some of the top players in the world.
The Cork native played a pivotal role in the promotion campaign of Sheffield United into the top flight and a second-place finish in the English Championship.
For the 26-year-old, who was the club’s record signing when he joined the club from fellow Championship side Brentford, the journey to the Premier League was one of sheer persistence and belief in his own ability.
The former Bishopstown underage GAA star was a rock at the back for United, a team that only left in 41 goals over their 46 league games played.
The Blades have a unique style of play, with their use of overlapping centre backs. But this tactic would not work if the third centre-half lacked the quality of a John Egan.
Speaking with The Echo, ex-Greenwood man Egan is relishing the prospect of playing in one of the top leagues in world football.
“Coming over to England, I never once doubted myself. After all the setbacks, I never once doubted myself.
“I was given a chance at Gillingham to play regular football and it has been an upward curve ever since.
“I played regular football at Brentford and became captain. I played regular football at Sheffield United and we got promoted to the Premier League.
“So anyone that has given me a chance, I have never left anyone down. I believe in my ability and I am ready for that next step now. I believe that I am good enough to play in the Premier League and I am looking forward to getting out there next season and testing myself against the top players in the world.”
Egan, a mainstay of the United side and made 44 starts over the promotion campaign.
“I came here under a bit of pressure in the summer because the club paid a lot of money for me. We lost the first two games in the league and people were probably questioning that.
“But after that, we went on a good winning run and we have been up around the top all season.
“Personally for me, I feel like I have shown my quality now and I can play top end Championship football.
“For me now, it is all about kicking on and going to prove myself in the Premier League.”
It is clear that the Blades are a side with a very strong sense of togetherness. That was something which could be seen by anyone who has seen Sheffield play this season or by the way in which they celebrated promotion to the Premier League.
Egan also feels that manager Chris Wilder has played a massive role in their fortunes this campaign. Wilder is a lifelong United fan and has now guided the club from League One to the Premiership in less than three years.
“I have never known anything like it and it is the best dressing room that I have been involved in,” describes Egan.
“It is full of good guys and good characters. You’ll go out on a Saturday and you never have to look around and ask someone to give more, because they are always giving it their maximum.
“When that all comes together it is a dangerous beast and that really helped us to get over the line as well.
“Chris Wilder is Sheffield United through and through. It definitely feeds off to the players, the city and the fans.
“The homecoming scenes from Stoke the other day when we got back to Bramall Lane, it was incredible.
“I think they have all been buzzing off having a guy like Chris Wilder as the manager of the club. He grew up supporting Sheffield United and to have him leading us into the Premier League is fantastic.”
Getting the chance to test himself at football grounds such as Old Trafford, Anfield, the Etihad and Stamford Bridge is a tantalizing prospect for Egan over the coming 12 months.
“It is fantastic to think that there are trips like that on the horizon. It is even more exciting going away and thinking about how you are going to get a result.
“We know there is going to be a lot of tough games next season and it is something you have got to really relish.
“The top six in the Premier League are far and away the top si. But there are another 14 teams in there who have got a lot of quality.
“We are going to go up into that league and we are not going to change. We are going to keep playing our way and I think that hopefully we can take a few people by surprise next season with the way we play.”
The celebrations of Sheffield United’s promotion party went viral, in particular, a certain song which Egan came up with, Sheffield United’s own version of ‘Allez Allez, Allez’.
“With social media and things it just blew up. The fans sang it all game at Stoke. It is mad how something that was just a bit of fun can be blown into something way bigger.”
Egan and his United team mates are deservedly basking in the magnificent achievement of their promotion success. When the Corkman goes back pre-season training later this summer, it will be in preparation for life as a Premier League footballer.