When Nathan Collins ready to depart the Ireland U-21 camp after his crimson card in final November’s draw with Iceland, he approached the power and conditioning coach Eoin Clarkin with a request.He wished the cell phone quantity of each employees member that he didn’t have already so he may ship all of them a person message to apologise for his uncharacteristic loss of self-discipline late in the sport.“It was really debateable if it was a crimson card,” says Clarkin, whose Irish commitments are labored round his essential job with the Arsenal ladies’s crew.
“But Nathan felt an excessive amount of to blame for the consequence and his first intuition was to apologise to everybody in the group which confirmed humility and actual management qualities. It was a component of shifting on for him too. That’s the factor about Nathan; he has a presence and confidence about him that mirrors his resilience.”
Clarkin knew most of that already.
He first met Burnley’s €14m summer time signing from Stoke, the latest Irish face in the Premier League, when he was a 13-year-old boy at Cherry Orchard, a defender unusually tall for his age who towered over his team-mates.
The participant’s father David, the former Ireland youths captain, was teaching Nathan’s aspect and a mutual contact put Clarkin in contact as he was doing a UEFA ‘B’ Licence and in search of expertise. It was the starting of a robust relationship that has been maintained all through the participant’s rise. Clarkin shortly realised there was extra to the large man at the again than met the eye.

“I’m slightly below six foot and Nathan wasn’t far off me at 13,” he explains. “By the time I completed teaching him at 15, 16, he was three or 4 inches taller. 
“But the greatest factor for me was his mentality and his tactical studying of the sport. Tactically, he simply appeared like he was 4 of 5 years forward of himself. Not even an age group or two up. He was virtually at males’s stage in phrases of his managing of his studying the sport. From a really younger age, he was at all times a captain however, actually, he was virtually like a supervisor on the pitch.”
He did have soccer in the genes. David was one of the high skills of his technology – he was at Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool once they received the league in 1990 – earlier than damage issues reduce brief his journey. His brother Eamon performed first crew soccer for Blackpool at 14 and has spent his life in the sport carrying a spread of hats.

David tells a narrative of bringing Nathan to Dalymount Park to watch his older brother Josh play for UCD and pointing to an image on the wall of the 1950 FAI Cup last.

Nathan’s grandfather Mick was the captain of the Transport aspect that lifted the trophy. “He had no thought about that historical past,” laughs David. “He simply stated, ‘Oh wow.’ I’m unsure he pays an excessive amount of consideration to it.
“Every now and then an image will pop up, there was one of myself and Stephen Kenny enjoying collectively that got here up just lately. But in life and in soccer we glance ahead relatively than again. Nathan’s job now’s to chase what’s forward of him.”
The 20-year-old has just about hit each goal to date. Ask the proud father about his development and the phrase that retains arising is want. “He was simply completely different from the begin,” he explains.
“He would prepare with Josh’s crew in Cherry Orchard academy (Josh is 4 years older) and he may maintain his personal in each stage he went up to. He was at all times large however for such a bodily lad, he was technically unbelievable.”
It quickly turned obvious that curiosity from abroad was inevitable. For David and his spouse Michelle, it prompted combined emotions.

They felt that following in the footsteps of Josh and going to UCD and enjoying soccer in tandem with getting an training was the neatest thing to do. But Nathan reached some extent in his mid teenagers the place his father finally realised that he was holding him again by maintaining him. He needs there have been higher choices at house and is aware of that Brexit has modified issues for the subsequent technology, putting extra strain on enhancing home constructions. But for Nathan, going away was a no brainer.
“We actually didn’t need to let him to go, but it surely simply bought to a stage the place he outgrew us (at Cherry Orchard) and bought too far forward of us,” he asserts. “It’s like an clever lad in a faculty who wants to be examined. He took the determination out of our palms.
“We couldn’t give him sufficient in Ireland, in contrast to what the academy set-up in Stoke may supply. If you have got a child who’s that gifted and decided and needs to go, then how do you maintain him again and say no?”
There had been phrases and situations connected to the family deal. Talks had been held with Diarmuid McNally at UCD which confirmed that if it didn’t work out at Stoke, the Leixlip lad could be coming house at 18 to go into the Belfield system.
The spoils of the first professional contract didn’t all go into the teen’s pocket both. Instead, cash was put apart right into a financial savings account with a long-term view in the direction of having the money for a deposit on a home if the English dream died.
“I do know what soccer is like,” cautioned David. “You can come again with nothing. So we put issues in place in order that even when it didn’t work out, he’d come again house with a deposit. He in a short time agreed.
“What do they want over there at that age? They dwell of their digs. They get fed at their membership. He didn’t thoughts being restricted on his cash.”
Stephen Rice didn’t assume Collins would ever be coming house. The skilled former League of Ireland midfielder and well-regarded coach, who has simply left a job with the Crystal Palace U-23 crew to be a part of Stephen Kenny’s Ireland employees as a scout and analyst, was in cost of the DDSL U-14 Kennedy Cup aspect when Collins got here onto his radar. His phrases echo these of Clarkin.
“The very first thing that stood out was that he was an absolute mountain,” Rice laughs. “But typically with larger gamers at that age, you will be fooled as their power and energy can cowl over so much of issues. But he was snug with the ball at his toes. He was good and quiet off the pitch, he was respectful and bought on with all people. On the pitch, he was an awesome communicator, he was pulling folks round.”
He was a pure selection for the captaincy. Jason Knight was a team-mate. Bohemians prospect Dawson Devoy was one other member of the group, however he was a barely later developer. Collins’ want for info impressed Rice. Both Collins and Knight devoured a homework problem set by their supervisor which was to fill out a logbook about what they had been studying.
“Nathan’s was full of info,” Rice recollects. “Dave at all times stored him actually grounded. I’d sit down with them and have a look at clips and discuss areas the place he wanted to be higher even when he was already forward of most lads. His mentality and perspective mixed with his potential and bodily presence was at all times going to give him an awesome probability.
“I keep in mind one sport towards Belvedere U-15s out in Westmanstown. They had been a yr older and he was up towards a extremely sturdy centre-forward, however he was so snug. Centre-halves by no means seize headlines however each time I noticed him at one other stage, he didn’t look any completely different to what he did in his personal age group.”
It was a sample that adopted by means of to his Stoke elevation. Collins made his first crew debut in the weeks earlier than his 18th birthday in April 2019 and signed a five-year deal that summer time.
That August, he turned Stoke’s youngest ever captain when Nathan Jones handed him the armband in simply his fifth senior look for the membership.
“Obviously with Nathan being Irish, I paid a bit extra consideration to him from the begin and you would see from an early age he had all the attributes to be a high participant if developed correctly,” says James McClean, a longtime member of the dressing-room.
“He had an awesome perspective which is refreshing for a younger participant these days. He wasn’t flash and considering he’s already made it with out really having made it.”
Just a few setbacks curtailed his contribution underneath Michael O’Neill final time period but it surely was already obvious that Collins could be Premier League-bound even when his employers missed out.
“He performed so much at right-back in his final season and he did effectively however why he performed there was baffling to me as a result of I believe he can and will likely be a high Premier League and worldwide centre-back,” asserts McClean, who was blissful to transfer on from Stoke earlier this week.
Bigger golf equipment had been monitoring his progress, however Burnley boss Sean Dyche was a long-term admirer and family felt it was the logical step to take.
James Tarkowski is in the last yr of his contract and Collins seems to have been signed as his substitute, which implies he could have to bide his time initially. He was on the bench for the opening weekend.
What’s sure is that he received’t want to fear about that deposit cash that was put away for a wet day. Still, there may be certainty from those that know him finest that the trappings of the Premier League could have no affect on his focus.
“It received’t be allowed by his family, by his older brother or his youthful brother and sister,” says David. “Yes, it’s glamorous, it’s completely different, doing TV shoots for Sky and that but it surely received’t have an effect on his soccer. The funds wasn’t what he checked out. It was about enjoying.”
The family may very well be accused of bias when making that prediction, however it’s backed up emphatically by Clarkin.
“He’s bought a drive to succeed as knowledgeable footballer, so I don’t assume he’ll be fascinated by the way of life and the stuff off the pitch,” he says.
“I don’t assume for a minute it can faze him, and there’s not many individuals I’d say it about. I don’t know the way he’ll do football-wise, that’s unattainable for me to decide, in phrases of his potential to step up to the highest stage of the world.
“But I’d be very assured about him staying grounded and level-headed and not letting exterior noise have an effect on him.”
Clarkin’s reference to Collins allowed him to go to Stoke as half of his personal evolution.
“I went over to see the academy at Stoke, and I may see he was the first man out for the coaching session warm-up, main everybody and speaking to them,” he recollects.
“Even after we had been away with the U-21s, and we bought to work collectively once more, any time I placed on an non-compulsory health session he could be first in and final out. I’d seen that every one the means by means of with him and it’s nice to see that it hasn’t modified.”
There are anecdotal tales about how Collins wanted two Stoke gamers to help him throughout physique weight workouts as a result of of his pure power. Clarkin, who unsurprisingly is in good condition given his space of experience, has his personal tales of feeling decidedly common when assembly the full drive of Collins in fight.
He’s by no means been simply one other participant and, whereas his new circumstances will ask stern questions, anticipate a decided thoughts to do all the things in his energy to discover the solutions.


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