Football/Soccer

Trai Hume aiming to follow further in NI hero David Healy's bootsteps

Trai Hume (left) in Europa Conference League action with Linfield.

HE wasn't even five years old but Trai Hume remembers David Healy's famous hat-trick which defeated Spain in September 2006.

Just turned 20, the Ballymena lad has Linfield and Sunderland on his CV like that man Healy - and now he's hoping to add 'Northern Ireland senior' to his portfolio of achievements too.

Called up to Ian Baraclough's squad for the friendlies away to Luxembourg (Friday) and at home to Hungary (Tuesday March 29), Hume knows Windsor Park well from his time with the Blues, but to play there in a green shirt would be something else, he admits:

"That would definitely be a big difference: the stadium sold-out, it would obviously be really big, so I'd just like to get out on the pitch…

"I do remember the game against Spain, obviously with David Healy scoring a hat-trick. The Euros [2016] is probably the main thing I remember. A lot of my family went over to watch it, stuff like that, it was big for the country.

"I've been to a lot of Northern Ireland games: Germany, Holland, and so on. Being away with the Under-21s you miss some games."

Hume has had a rapid rise over the past year, from being on loan from Linfield at his hometown club Ballymena United to a potential senior international appearance.

The former led to the latter, he points out: "As long as I play games I wouldn't mind where I play. I grew up playing centre back, then played centre mid for two, three years.

"Whenever I got the loan move to Ballymena that's when I started playing right-back. That got me the move across the water so I'm happy to play there, it's fine. I don't mind any position.

"It's just about adapting to positions, understanding the players around you. I understand centre mid, centre half, and they're the players closest to me apart from the wide [midfield] player, so that helps me."

His buccaneering forays forward with Linfield caught the eye of a few clubs, but he chose to go to Sunderland in League One, a level he feels will help him get playing senior football.

Having joined this January, there was a quick managerial change, with Lee Johnson sacked at the end of that month and Alex Neil appointed in early February. The Scotsman has gone with more experienced players recently but Hume doesn't regret his move to Wearside:

"Definitely, whenever clubs were interested I had to think about what club was best for me. I thought Sunderland was the right choice and it is the right choice. I've been involved in most of the squads - I might not have played so much but I've always been involved. It's good, just gaining experience, and hopefully get more game-time…

"It's a massive club, they demand high standards, demand results. It's a club that wants to win. We're sixth in the league at the minute, so hopefully we'll get into the play-offs and get promoted to the Championship."

As for the international scene, with Paddy McNair staying in NI for treatment on a bruised foot and another attacking right-back, 18-year-old Conor Bradley of Liverpool, not yet joined up with the squad, Hume may have good opportunity for an outing in Luxembourg.

However, he knows he could be competing with Aghyaran lad Bradley for a long-term place with NI, a challenge he relishes:

"It will only benefit the both of us if there is a competition. It will bring out the better of me and it will bring out the better of Conor. I haven't thought about it that much but if we're playing for the same position it will only benefit the both of us."

Bradley is one of those who went to England aged 16, whereas Hume had to wait, but he insists: "I always had confidence. When I didn't get across the water aged 16 I didn't let it affect me. I thought the opportunity would come at some point and I kept going. It has come now and I did expect it…

"Obviously it was always in the plan but it has come a bit quicker than I thought. I only moved away in January and it's only March now and I'm away with the seniors with Northern Ireland, it's what every young boy dreams of.

"You want to play with the national team and I've got to come two months after I've moved across the water, I'm just trying to take it in my stride."

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Football/Soccer