Stoke City boss Michael O’Neill could be set to raid his homeland for teenage starlet Trai Hume, per BelfastLive.
O’Neill has seldom gone in for players of his nationality or players he managed for the national side, with just Jordan Thompson arriving from Blackpool last year.
But a deal could be made for one of the rising stars of the Northern Irish game – although there will be competition as Scottish Championship side Hearts are also interested.
Hume is an 18-year-old right-back who has played 14 league games for Ballymena United this season, having joined them on loan from league rivals Linfield.
According to BelfastLive, Hume has been used as more of a wing-back by Ballymena, which would suit one of O’Neill’s systems to a tee as he regularly uses three centre-backs with wing-backs flying up and down the flanks.
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At the time of Hume’s arrival at the start of the season, Ballymena boss David Jeffrey said, per News Letter: “His attitude is exemplary and his ability actually leads people to still wonder where exactly is his best position.
“He’s equally adept in the centre at the back, on the right, in the middle of the park, but what we do know is that we’ve signed an excellent young footballer who is certainly not a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none…it’s clear to see the ability and class.”
Jeffrey saw the quality very early on and it looks like bigger clubs are now taking notice of the Northern Ireland under-21 international.
If Michael O’Neill wants Trai Hume, then he will no doubt get him.
The influence of him being the former Northern Ireland manager will probably be very tempting and if Stoke can come to a financial agreement with Linfield, then it’s a very realistic move.
Hume sounds like more of a project rather than being thrown straight into the first-team mix, but if you’re good enough you’re old enough and on previous evidence, there’s no better man to get the best out of a Northern Irish player than O’Neill.