Manchester City prospect Shea Charles is maturing on international stage with NI

Northern Ireland's Shea Charles on the ball against Finland's Nikolai Alho.
Northern Ireland's Shea Charles on the ball against Finland's Nikolai Alho.

MATURITY is a quality that teenage midfielder Shea Charles already exhibits on the pitch, but he also displays that trait off the pitch.

Defeat at home to Finland on Sunday night might have been hard for the 19-year-old to take, given that the hosts had enough chances to force at least a draw, but the Manchester-born lad was philosophical about that 1-0 loss:

“I thought we put on a good display and played well. We created good chances, they were there to win the game, but we gave away a silly goal which is always frustrating.

“These things can happen in competition and it’s nothing to dwell on. I think we can look back and improve on what we have done but I feel like our confidence is still there.”

His own confidence is abundantly obvious, even though the game against the Finns was only his sixth senior cap. Charles believes that playing international football for Northern Ireland will only improve his maturity, and enjoyed the Windsor Park experience, despite the defeat:

“It’s always a good experience playing here, the atmosphere is great. Just to play in front of a crowd like this is good, especially when they are supporting you. It does give you a big boost.

“I feel like I have settled in quite well. The lads have helped with that, the coaching staff too. It all helps when they can guide you through. It’s been good so far.”

He and fellow 19-year-old Conor Bradley have excelled for NI, and he mentions another of the same age, his travel buddy Isaac Price, the Everton midfielder:

“That definitely helps, I flew here with Isaac Price. Normally we fly together and it helps having another young one along and that helps with the whole experience.

“Me and Conor are starting the games. He is so good as a wing-back, I feel like we do help with the energy. Isaac coming on replenishes the team.

“We have young, talented players and Michael [O’Neill] is trying to get us all involved and that is something to build on in the future.”

Playing defensive midfield, a mentally and physically demanding role, Shea says that international football is levels above his usual fare with City U23s:

“It’s completely different to what I play. You see players like [Teemu] Pukki, the ball comes into him and he flicks it on, it’s almost impossible to stop. It’s just little things like that. I have got to try to work on that and stop them.

“They don’t care that I am young. They aren’t going to let me off the hook they might even see it as a good thing that they might be able to put me off. It’s difficult but I enjoy the challenge of playing against the older guys.”

Going back to City, he feels he will return as a better player: “Definitely, the experience that we get from senior football will always help when I go back. There are a couple of players in my [U23] team that have played senior football at international level so that is a positive thing to help me progress.

“I am training with the first team at City and the standard is very high. Coming here and playing senior football, it helps me a lot in my development. This is the main thing that is helping me go onto the next stage of my career.”

As for where that might be, at City, where he has been since the age of seven, or elsewhere, he smiled when asked about a famous journalist Tweeting that Borussia Dortmund are interested in him.

English lads including Jude Bellingham and Jadon Sancho have gone there, but Charles simply said: "Yeah, well, I don't really know too much about it myself, I'm just trying to focus on City at the moment. That's who I'm playing for, that's the main thing at the moment.”

However, he did acknowledge that he would consider a move to one of the City Football Group clubs, which include Girona in Spain’s La Liga, Palermo in Italy’s Serie B, and Troyes in France’s Ligue 1:

"It's always a possibility. The City Football Group is very good for players that need first team football, so yeah, it is a possibility; I'm not sure at the moment."

Until the summer internationals, he’ll return to Manchester City, where he insisted with a laugh that he wasn’t scared to ask Pep Guardiola for advice:

“It’s more if you don’t understand something you can ask him. If you need to ask a question he won’t turn you down and tell you that you should already know this.

“He will help you if you don’t understand and there are plenty of coaching staff around as well. Little tactical things that we work on is the main thing.”