He gave Gavin Bazunu a first-team debut at the age of 16, so it’s no surprise that Shamrock Rovers coach Stephen Bradley wasn’t afraid the same man would play in a World Cup qualifier at 19 .
Although his main focus this week is on his own work and ending a four-game losing streak for the Premier Division champion, Bradley says Bazunu’s display against Serbia in the middle of the week has already elevated him to a new plane in terms. while he also sees a future in the Premier League for the teenager.
“In my opinion, it’s as good as everything I’ve seen,” Bradley says of Bazunu’s display in the 1-1 draw against Serbia, where even the frustrated manager of the opposing team, Dragan Stojkovic, called for recognition of the efforts of Bazunu.
“I know people will come back for years and years talking (Bonner’s Packie), Shay Dado: there were top-notch performances, I understand. But that was the best, I think. Not just for Ireland, but for any international goalkeeper. It was right up there. “Some people are surprised at his age, but you shouldn’t be. When you meet him, he’s different, he’s ready.”
Are you ready to do it even in the Premier League, at your main club, at Manchester City or elsewhere? “Please, God, if injuries allow. I don’t see anything stopping him, ”says Bradley, who saw Bazunu save a penalty on his debut at 16 and thrive in the crosshairs.
“It simply came to our notice then [City] decide. They have their plans and they know what’s in the building. Xavi, their goalkeeping coach, was there the other night and they really like Gavin. But then again, I don’t know his plans for him.
“What I do know is that Gavin can play at the highest level, there’s no doubt he can do that. Please God’s injuries allow him to do that because in my opinion that’s the only thing that would stop him.
“I’ve said it before, when you’re close to Gavin and you understand how he works and how he behaves, and how respectful he is, how polite and hardworking you are, you get the feeling that this guy is different. He’s focusing on being the best.
“Sometimes you have a kid who performed well, but he’s unique. With this guy, you know he just stays with him longer.”
Despite Hoops ’debut at age 16, Bazunu was one of the last developers, by no means the best player in his position in adolescence, and that’s a lesson for others, Bradley believes. “There’s a lot to say for the latest developers, and obviously Gavin was one of them. It creates a bit of hunger in people when they’re not the most important at 13, 14, 15, 16, 17. He unleashed something on Gavin and says a lot about the latest developers, ”he says.
The goalkeeper position is one of Bradley’s concerns at the moment, centered on his No. 1 veteran Alan Mannus after conceding questionable goals in the defeats against Bohemians and Flora Tallinn.
“Alan has been around the block and understands how to deal with it. I have no doubts about Alan’s ability or quality. It’s unfortunate he had a rock patch in the last two weeks, but it’s okay, it happens, ”Bradley says before a test at Waterford home, Roberto Lopes returned from international duty to add steel to his defense while new signing Barry Cotter should debut at home.
“When you look at it nationally, I think we lost five or six games in two and a half years. We need to relax and trust what we do and be calm. That’s football, from time to time you have evidence, from time to time a small rocky patch.
“That’s what happens, but it expands when it happens here and you’re at the top of the league. I understand that. We’ll be fine, we know what we have to do. We need to relax, trust what we do and work hard.”