EXPERIENCED campaigners, Northern Irish prospects and Larne favourites! Conor Mitchell has been in and around the Burnley set-up and youth level for his country and talks us through his “Dream Team” of players he has played with in his career so far.
GOALKEEPER: Nick Pope (Burnley)
I worked closely with Nick for three years during our time at the club. He is a top guy who has gone from not getting much game time and being third choice, to cementing the number one spot and having the most clean sheets in the Premier League!
RIGHT BACK: Cameron Dummigan (Northern Ireland & Burnley)
I played with Cameron at U16 level for Northern Ireland before we both moved to Burnley and lived together. He was very highly rated, and this was evident after Kieran Trippier left for Spurs, as he told the Chairman to promote Cameron, who was only 18 at the time, to the first team rather than buying a replacement! Unfortunately, he has been unlucky with injuries since then but makes the game look effortless.
CENTRE BACK: Harry Flowers (Larne)
I could not leave out my big mate, could I? While he might not be the modern day “ball playing centre half”, he more than makes up for it with his ability to be commanding and go and win the ball in the air! Harry was rock solid for us last season which was a relief for me as I was the one who got him over to Larne. Harry and I had a good understanding when we played together, and he is a top professional.
CENTRE BACK- Liam Donnelly (Northern Ireland, under-21s)
Although Liam is now playing centre midfield for Motherwell, he always played centre half when we played together. Liam was head and shoulders above everyone else in our age group in the country. We also formed a good understanding playing together for Northern Ireland under-21s. He was influential for us having a successful campaign.
LEFT BACK- Jamal Lewis (Northern Ireland, under-21s)
Jamal is another player who I played with for the under-21s, you could instantly see his athleticism and physical attributes when he joined the group. He was not in the under-21s long before he got a call up to the senior squad. Since then he has gone on to become a regular for the national team and Norwich in the Premier League.
CENTRE MIDFIELDER- Mark Randall (Larne)
Mark is a player who I think is actually quite underrated, he’s another one who makes the game look effortless at times and his ability to see and execute some passes makes it clear he’s played at a top level. He is also one of the funniest guys I know too so he makes it into the team.
CENTRE MIDFIELDER– Joey Barton (Burnley)
I was lucky to play alongside Joey when he first came to Burnley and played in the u23s to gain some fitness, he’s obviously a controversial character but his ability to lead on the pitch and drag people around him up to his level was brilliant and he had a real winning mentality too.
CENTRE MIDFIELDER– Alistair McCann (St Johnstone)
Ali is a player who I played a lot of games with for the reserves, at a time when he was probably frustrated at a lack of senior game time, but he’s just came off the back of his breakthrough season in the SPFL and has shown he’s up there with the best young players in that league. He has got bags of energy and is very calm on the ball and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make his senior debut under Ian Baraclough sooner rather than later.
RIGHT WING– Gavin Whyte (Northern Ireland, under-21s)
Gav must be a defender’s nightmare; he is so direct, pacey and relentless. We played a Spanish under-21 side packed full of players playing in Europe’s top leagues and he gave their left back a torrid time. He had to work very hard to get to where he is now and he is a great example for young players in the Irish league who dream of a successful career across the water.
STRIKER – Jonathan Walters (Burnley)
Jon was coming to the end of his career when he came to Burnley but he scored a lot of big goals down the years for Stoke and Republic of Ireland, after having to fight his way back up from the lower leagues. The ultimate professional, he was the first in the gym every morning and worked his socks off. He is a really good guy and helped me a lot off the pitch as well.
LEFT WING – Dwight McNeil (Burnley)
Dwight came in to our under-23s group when he was only 17 and it was clear from the start just how talented he was. Not many young players break through at Burnley so it is testament to how good Dwight is that he’s not only got in to the first team but been one of their best players! I don’t think he gets the recognition other young English players his age get because he’s not at one of the bigger Premier League clubs.