Byrne ready for new start
Reporter: Matthew Chambers
Date published: 31 August 2017
JACK Byrne was acclaimed as a potential star when lighting up the top flight in Holland and now, the confident young midfielder from Dublin is fighting for a route back towards international recognition.
Athletic's new recruit (21) shone in patches during the low-key Checkatrade Trophy draw with Port Vale with his sharp passing and keen movement.
It was those qualities - and an eye for a goal - that saw him impress enough in the Eredivisie with small-town club SC Cambuur two seasons ago to be called up to the full Republic of Ireland squad while still a teenager.
His performances then, over 27 league appearances which produced four goals, led to a Cambuur supporters' group spokesperson comparing him favourably to Dutch midfield legend Wesley Sneijder.
"You have to live up to that potential, but the loan move to Blackburn didn't go as planned and it set me back a couple of months," reflected Byrne, of a loan switch last season from Manchester City that brought with it only seven appearances for the Ewood Park club in league and cup.
"Warren Joyce was then sacked at Wigan a few weeks after I had signed for them on a three-and-a-half year contract. These things happen in football and you have to go again and dust yourself off.
"You start again every season. Every season is different and anything can happen. I am at Oldham now. Holland was a great experience and I would love to go back there and play again. But I can't thank the gaffer here enough for this opportunity."
Byrne was coached in the Blues' academy from the age of 14, after moving over here from his native Ireland, and progressed under the tutelage of Patrick Vieira within the Elite Development Squad.
In breaking ties with City, though, that move to Wigan prior to manager Joyce departing has seen him frozen out under the new charge of Paul Cook and needing to find a path to regularly featuring in the EFL.
On loan to Athletic up until January 1, Byrne now has the chance to show what he can really do in front of a domestic audience.
"My club football got me into the Ireland squad in the first place - scoring against PSV, being man of the match against Feyenoord and being in the team of the week after Ajax - but it has slowed down since then," he said.
"The two or three games a week last year was difficult for me and I couldn't adapt.
"That's what I am looking forward to this time around and putting that to bed."
As for the qualities in Athletic's squad from what he has seen so far, he does not believe the quality gap between top and bottom in Sky Bet League One is too large.
"I have been at Wigan and most of Blackburn's team is still there from last year. So I know what the quality is like at the other end - and we are not far off," Byrne said.
"You don't get that many scoring opportunities at this level, as teams want the ball away from their goal as possible at times. That's English football.
"If we can take our chances, it won't be a problem for us."
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