Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill has been full of praise for Southampton’s midfield ace Shea Charles, this despite his recent red card for his country. And now a fellow defender has joined in with the Saints summer signing.
Charles was recruited by the south coast team from Manchester City on a four year contract and has slotted into the first team with ease. The 20 year old has a bright future according to the staff in charge of the Northern Ireland set up.
Despite a poor Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, Charles has been heavily involved, including his red card against Slovenia last month in what marked his twelfth cap. He is due back in action tonight against Denmark in the final group match for the Irish.
Paddy McNair, now a veteran at Middlesbrough after spells at Manchester United and Sunderland, has added his thoughts on Charles’ career prospects, as HampshireLive reported. “I think Shea is a brilliant player, I think he can play at the highest level. When he came in under Ian Baraclough, you could see the ability he had, and in every game he plays, he performs really well. He has that composure about him and he makes the game look easy.”
The initial £10.5m spent by Southampton seems to be money well spent, even though he had no experience at the top level at City, it was clear through his Academy performances that he was something special.
— Saints Live (@Saints_FCLive) November 20, 2023
O’Neill has been keeping a close eye on his time at Southampton and is fully aware of the amount of game time he is seeing this season. “I’m always conscious we’re asking a lot of a lad who has just turned 20, but what he has demonstrated is real maturity, an ability to take the ball in his own half during the build-up phase.
“He’s always improving, he’s improved in certain areas out of possession. When we played Shea in March, he was captain of the Manchester City Under-21s, he hadn’t played a single minute of first-team football.
“It’s a big career change. What he brings is constant progress. I’ve been delighted with his contribution in the campaign and I know he’s itching to play because I know he was disappointed to miss the game in Helsinki.”
Southampton knew the risk when paying out a large fee on an untested player. Clearly they saw something, and that sentiment is echoed by the Northern Ireland boss. Michael O’Neill has overseen a rough qualification period, but sees Charles as a bright light, and something that the National team can build upon. Shea Charles is repaying the faith that Russell Martin showed when he opened his wallet. Being young and eager will serve him well, and at this stage in his career playing regular competitive football will do him the world of good.