Former Glasgow Celtic and Ireland goalkeeper, Packie Bonner, is delighted that a fellow Rosses man is hitting the headlines in the soccer world.
Bonner, was in Donegal last Friday, fulfulling a long-standing arrangement to visit the Youth Academy of Erne Wanderers, Ballyshannon.
Looking forward to the Capital One League Cup final when Bradford City take on Swansea City on Sunday next at Wembley, Packie was enthused that another young Donegal player was getting the opportunity to be in the spotlight with the involvement Carl McHugh of Lettermacaward at the heart of the Bradford defence.
“It’s always a thrill to see young guys getting an opportunity. I think everybody was excited to see Carl getting that wee run in the team and getting into that sort of situation when the spotlight’s on him.
“The funny think I was actually home a couple of times when it was going on and, not so much me, but lads who played with him; I would have a nephew, Sean, that played with Carl; his dad worked on the floor on my house at home. I had a connection that way. It was very, very good for the guys at home that seen his development, helped him in that development and now see him get that opportunity to be in the spotlight and get a bit of success.”
Having a League Two side involved in the final of one of the most prestigious cup competitions in England is a major achievement and Bonner is even more surprised that it has happened in the modern era.
“It’s fairytale stuff, absolutely. It doesn’t happen very often, especially in this modern game. It used to happen a bit in the old days. But I think in the modern game, you don’t expect it to happen this way.
“So from that perspective, you need a bit of luck. You need to be in a team that getting that run going. You need good players around about you.
“Carl was a big strong boy playing here in the Donegal youths and schoolboy football. He stood out. When he was that age, he always looked a prospect. But when you that and compare that with the development of the game over in England and look at some of the guys who are playing against him, he’s no longer the big guy. He has to hold his own now. But what he has, which I like, is a determination. He has that Donegal determination. Young Seamie Coleman has it. I had it to a degree. You don’t want to give up. You want to give it 120 per cent when you have the opportunity. And then it’s up to someone to give you that opportunity,” said Bonner.
Having a good grounding in sport at home, playing Gaelic football is a great help for any player according to the Donegal goalkeeping legend.
“That makes you strong. It makes you able to cut it, to get in among people and hold your own. Shay Given had it too. That wee mix is good. Obviously he made a decision at a certain age that he had to focus on his soccer.
“But that’s what you do. You play as many sports as you can when you’re young and then when you get to a certain age when you have an ability. That would always be my mantra and obviously Carl embodies that. Most of us that made it embody that to be perfectly honest,” he said.
Looking forward, Bonner’s advise to Carl is to continue to keep the head down and work hard.
“I think what Carl has to do is to establish himself as a first team player and a consistent first team player. Once you do that. Most people will be looking, ‘can he do a job for us’. He has to step up to a different level, or maybe the team (Bradford) will step up. Because Phil Parkinson (manager) I know well. He was a player with us at Reading when I was there as Assistant Manager with Tommy Burns. Phil was captain of the team and he was a great, great guy. He actually is a guy embodies some of the things we have over here. He was a worker, not blessed with fantastic skill. But he was a fanstatic player in the middle of the pitch or centre half. He made things happen for himself and he likes that in a player. I’m sure he see those qualities within Carl, too.
“That’s a little bit of the luck you need. You need a manager who recognises that other quality. I think he has done that with Carl and gave him his chance. I will be great to see him play in the final and hopefully pick up a winner’ medal,” said Packie.