Shane Long, Shay Given, Seamus Coleman, Roy Keane, James McCarthy, Matt Holland – just a selection of Republic of Ireland stars that have successfully made the transition from the top flight of Irish Football into the English Premier League. For the likes of Holland, Given and Keane clearly standing out from the crowd was vital during a time where more and more talented foreign players from further afield were coming into the English game to join the then recently established Premier League. Likewise even for Long and the Everton duo of Coleman and McCarthy, maintaining their status as some of the Irish league’s best performers now on English soil also proved difficult but in doing so, all six have become well-known household names; testament to their footballing ability and determination to make it big in the beautiful game.
Despite the passing of time and constant changes that can take place in the whirlwind of modern-day football however, as Ryan Manning looked to follow in the footsteps of his fellow compatriots following a move to Queens Park Rangers in January 2015, it too proved to be much of the same and was he ever to make it big in English football, he’d ultimately have to wait for his chance and to grab it with both hands. Thankfully for the promising 20-year old who was heavily linked with a host of English Premier League sides during the 2014/15 season, after quietly going about his business with QPR’s Under 23 squad whilst waiting patiently to one day have a crack at the first-team, only now is Ryan Manning beginning to show just why so many clubs were interested in him two seasons ago and in many ways, gradually reaching a level that his potential had always shown from a young age.
After being ‘told to explore other options’ in what was a ‘frustrating time’ last season in Manning’s own words, Manning has said that despite ‘getting fed up with it’ and feeling ‘a bit disillusioned’ by waiting for an elusive first-team opportunity, he is now ‘absolutely delighted’. The Republic of Ireland youngster has credited his self-determination in keeping his head down and continuing to work hard on the training pitch as the reason why he is as hungry as ever to make the most of his chance in the spotlight under new manager Ian Holloway after finding that opportunities were somewhat limited under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
After seven consecutive league losses, Manning was awarded his first-team debut and earned the plaudits of his manager as Holloway referred to Manning as ‘outstanding’ as his side went on to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers to end 2016 on a much more positive note. With Manning in the side, the club’s run of good form has continued from this point onwards and after describing his first-team debut as a ‘dream come true’ having only received his professional squad one number a day before, Manning has continued to impress – earning himself a new contract in the process and tying the promising midfielder down until 2019 at least. In the space of a month, Manning had gone from obscurity to stardom – adding to his breakthrough into the QPR first-team and consequent new contract by capping off an incredible start both to the New Year and to life in English Football with his first league goal in a 1-1 draw against west London rivals Fulham.
In terms of his qualities, there is clearly something special about the Irishman to have initially earned a move to English football. Nonetheless after bulking up since his time in the League of Ireland according to former manager Tommy Dunne of Manning’s former team Galway FC, Dunne suggests Manning is much more than a crafty midfielder, instead a player that can ‘play in a number of positions right across the top and even left-back’. As well as a good left-foot and a willingness to work hard and help out his teammates at all costs, Dunne has also suggested that not only is Manning a ‘stylish player’ but one that can be ‘aggressive’ and ‘single-minded’ – traits that you must inevitably think will help separate him from the rest and perhaps explains why the unique youngster stood out in the first-place.
After he caught the eye Wolves, Ipswich and Reading, Manning perhaps hit the nail on the head by saying that he’s ‘moving in the right direction’ and whilst the youngster won’t want to get too carried away and try to do too much, too soon, moving in the right direction could yet prove to be the greatest understatement of his season so far.A player with an eye for goal (notably from distance), a good passer of the ball off the ground with a tendency to try expansive long balls, Manning’s attributes could make him stand a cut above the rest in the Championship with more game-time under his belt. To other teams he is undoubtedly a target and has often been on the receiving end of a number of tackles when in possession but the Irishman’s willingness to give as good as he gets in reclaiming the ball through tackling stands him in good stead for the future. His eye for goal meanwhile is also noticeable and it surely won’t be long until the he builds on his only professional goal and assist for Queens Park Rangers, at least at this time of writing having made a total of 10 league appearances in a number of different positions across the Queens Park Rangers midfield.
All in all, despite the fact that actions often speak louder than words in modern football with that what you produce on the pitch much more important than anything said to the media before or after a game, new manager Ian Holloway paid the youngster the greatest compliment he could have asked for, stating Manning’s debut performance ‘epitomised what my QPR was before and what I want it to be in the future’. Given that Holloway’s QPR then made it to the Premier League some time later, with Manning in the side it could therefore well be a case of deja-vu and if not, you would think it may only be a matter of time before Manning reaches the dizzy heights himself.
2016/17 Queens Park Rangers statistics (at the current time of writing)
Appearances: 10 (9 in the Starting XI)
Minutes played: 777
Yellow Cards: 5