West Bromwich Albion possess arguably one of the most prolific academy systems in the entire Football League, with Baggies boss Slaven Bilic having made full use of some of it’s graduates this term since taking over the club last summer.
One name that has perhaps gone under the radar this season at the Hawthorns is 21-year-old defender Dara O’Shea, with a vast majority of the media’s attention having been placed on the shoulder’s of the Irishman’s teammate Nathan Ferguson, due to the constant speculation over the latter’s future.
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After moving to the Midlands back in the summer of 2016 from St. Kevins Boys in his homeland, O’Shea was quickly bedded into the academy system by the club in a bid to develop him over the next few years with a view to him eventually stepping up to the first team.
Initially arriving at the club as something of a raw centre back, O’Shea’s ability to win aerial duels and intercept key passes from the opposition was quickly identified as areas that could well see him go on to make a breakthrough to the first team.
However it took a loan spell at Exeter City back in the 2018/2019 campaign for the club to really see the player’s true potential, with the young Irishman having been utilised as something of a first choice option by the Grecians.
Following his return to the Hawthorns last summer, the newly installed figure of Bilic was quick to run the rule over the youngster, who at that point had failed to make a first team appearance for the club since making the move to England.
As a result, the Croat quickly identified O’Shea’s ability in possession of the ball, thus leading to the Baggies boss taking the decision to deploy the 21-year-old at right back.
Since being handed this new playing position, O’Shea certainly hasn’t looked out of place, with the academy graduate having displayed great crossing ability when going forward for the Baggies, thus adding another string to their bow in attack.
Whilst defensively, O’Shea continues to excel under the Croat’s stewardship, averaging 5.3 aerial duels won per game, underlining his superiority against opponent’s in one on one situations.
With the youngster’s current deal lasting until 2023, the Baggies will surely be eyeing a renewal at some point down the line for their young talent to avoid another Ferguson situation, particularly with O’Shea’s strong showings being sure to attract the unwanted attentions of Premier League clubs at some point in the future.
In short, securing the long term future of the Irishman should be high up on Bilic’s list of priorities during the summer months to come as he continues to excel at the Hawthorns.