Underage success with Greenwood and Barrs stood to Ethon Varian after Stoke swtich

Talented Cork soccer player is making progress in England and for Ireland's U21s
Underage success with Greenwood and Barrs stood to Ethon Varian after Stoke swtich

Ethon Varian during a Republic of Ireland U21 training session at Colliers Park in Wrexham, Wales. Picture: David Rawcliffe/Sportsfile

THREE years since signing for Stoke City, Ethon Varian is starting to make headlines at the club.

The former Greenwood underage striker and St Finbarr’s dual player was recently nominated for the February Premier League 2 Player of the Month after scoring three goals and registered three assists in three games and is showing his best form since arriving at the club.

“It’s going really well. It’s all about development playing in the Premier League 2 side as opposed to getting results. We try and emulate the way the first team play and it’s about players getting better,” Varian said.

“I was on loan at Nantwich last year and that was about experiencing first-team football, playing against men every week.

“Those games were all about winning. There was a big emphasis on the win. Sometimes, with men’s football the performance doesn’t matter, and you just have to win.

“It’s just a different experience to playing development football which is about development more than performances.

“It’s about developing players to play first-team football and improve your attributes. Going on loan is about playing against men and winning every week and developing that winning mentality.

“Over the past month, I brought a lot more consistency to my game and I’m scoring more goals. Off the ball, I’m working much harder and that is very big here. Every player has to make sure that they are doing the work off the ball for the team.

“Obviously, being a striker, scoring and creating goals is part of my job and I need to do that, and I have been recently.”

Making the jump from schoolboys football to joining a top English professional team can be daunting for a player. Although Varian did need to adjust, he found that playing for Greenwood and St Finbarr’s helped the Corkman adapt to professional football much quicker.

The Barrs' Ethon Varian puts in a smart challenge on Carbery Rangers' Eoghan Hayes in the 2017 county U16 final. Picture: Larry Cummins
The Barrs' Ethon Varian puts in a smart challenge on Carbery Rangers' Eoghan Hayes in the 2017 county U16 final. Picture: Larry Cummins

“Greenwood and the Barrs were a great help to me. Any time I go back to Cork, Greenwood have allowed me to use their facilities and equipment to stay fit. Brian Newman, Mick Grainger and my dad were my coaches growing up and they played a big part in my career.

“The main difference I noticed when I first came over was that the intensity was a lot higher.

Fitness-wise, I fitted in quite quick because of playing football with Greenwood, along with playing hurling and football with the Barrs.

“My fitness levels were very high. I needed to work on my concentration levels because of it being a higher standard, I needed to have a higher level of concentration and then the intensity as well.

“When I first came over, the club just let me settle in and try and push my way into the team, and that took a few games.

Galway League goalkeeper Kallum Fahy saves from Cork Youth League's Ethon Varian. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Galway League goalkeeper Kallum Fahy saves from Cork Youth League's Ethon Varian. Picture: Denis Minihane.

“Once I got myself into the team, I didn’t look back and kept looking forward. The club did start me on a gym programme and started giving me protein shakes to get a bit bigger because I wasn’t the biggest lad when I came over, so I just needed to bulk up a little.”

Form

Varian’s fine form has led to the Stoke player being included in Jim Crawford’s recent Republic of Ireland U21 squad.

The striker has worked with Crawford in the past at underage level and was delighted to receive a call-up from the former Waterford coach.

“I was buzzing with the call-up. I found out from the academy director. He called me in and said, ‘I’d been picked to be in the U21 provisional squad’.

“It was a big moment for me because it was the first time I’d been called into the squad and it was a very proud moment for me.

“I’ve worked with Jim before with the U18s home base team. I got to play under him with that. He’s a great manager and I learned a lot from him and I think that is one of the things that helped me when I joined Stoke because that was a couple of months before I came over to Stoke and I learned a lot playing with the Irish home base team.”

Ethon Varian, Greenwood, about to shoot past Hayden Colum, Nenagh. Picture Dan Linehan
Ethon Varian, Greenwood, about to shoot past Hayden Colum, Nenagh. Picture Dan Linehan

Varian’s form has caught the eye of Stoke first-team manager Michael O’Neill and although the former Greenwood player is keen to make his first-team appearance, he knows he still has a lot of hard work ahead of him to make the jump from U23s to first-team football.

“I always try and stay behind after training a do a bit extra, but the way sports science is coming into sport that’s not always possible. Sometimes if we had a hard session, we aren’t left stay out because of the amount of work we have put in in that session we could easily pick up an injury just by striking the ball.

“Sometimes, some players might be pulled out of training if they have done too much the previous days.

Obviously, my ambition is to make my first-team debut, but that comes when you are ready.

“I just need to keep working hard and take the opportunity if it comes. I’ve trained with the first team a few times over the last couple of years and it was a good experience.

“There’s a big difference between the first-team and the U23s, and again, it’s just about being ready to take that opportunity when it comes.”

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