After taking a backseat for a couple of weeks we’re back with our ‘Team of the Teenies’ with the right wing position the next spot up for grabs.
Once again we’ve four contenders for the slot out on the right flank with the requirements as usual being that any shortlisted player has to have played a minimum of 50 games in the Irish League between 2010 and 2019.
We start off with a player who after three seasons in the Irish League is now plying his trade across the water.
Perhaps a contender that will be considered controversial in some quarters as Paul Smyth only really had one full season of football in Northern Ireland with Linfield but with the impact he had it felt impossible to leave him out.
Smyth burst onto the scene in September 2015 when former Northern Ireland international, Warren Feeney, gave him his debut for the Windsor Park side in a County Antrim Shield victory over Newington at the age of 17 and he soon established himself as a regular in the next manager David Healy’s side, scoring his first goal for the club in a Boxing Day win over arch-rivals Glentoran.
Smyth went onto be a key part of the Linfield squad that won the League and Cup double in 2016-17 and won the Ulster Young Player of the Year, Northern Ireland Football Writer’s Young Player of the Year and several of Linfield’s own Player of the Year awards that season.
International recognition followed Smyth even in his Linfield days with caps for Northern Ireland U19’s and Northern Ireland U21’s and while not selected for Northern Ireland’s European Championship 2016 campaign he did travel with Michael O’Neill’s squad to boost training numbers, along with Glenavon’s Joel Cooper.
After plenty of speculation, Smyth got his dream move across the water in August 2017 when he signed for Queens Park Rangers, scoring on his first-team debut for the Rs in a 2-1 victory over Cardiff and after impressing in the remaining fixtures that season he was named the Supporters Young Player of the Year.
Smyth made his senior Northern Ireland debut in March 2018 against North Korea and repeated the trick of his QPR debut scoring the winner late in the game, moments after coming off the bench.
Smyth is still with QPR and is currently on loan at Wycombe Wanderers after a loan spell with Accrington Stanley last season.
Cliftonville player Chris Curran started last decade in the second tier with Ballinamallard United, were he had returned to after the disappointment of being released by Manchester United and following a stint with Portadown.
Curran was a part of the Mallards side that won promotion to the top flight in the 2011-12 season and went onto to secure a top-six finish in their debut season in the Premiership.
Curran’s performances began to catch the attention of managers elsewhere with Eddie Patterson keen to bring the wide man to Glentoran but it was Patterson’s former right-hand man, Tommy Breslin, who won the race to get Curran’s signature as he signed for Cliftonville in the summer of 2013.
The Reds had won the league the previous season but Curran slotted right into the Reds side as if he had always been there and despite a mid-season injury setting him back a little he was a key member of the side that won the league and League Cup for the second consecutive season in his debut campaign.
Curran has become a fan favourite at Solitude, captaining the side on a number of occasions and has added a further two League Cup winners medals and two County Antrim Shield winners medals, the most recent of which came just a matter of weeks ago, to his collection.
A fine servant to both the clubs he served last decade, Curran’s consistent performances more than merit his place on our shortlist for the Team of the Decade.
Kirk Millar started his career at Windsor Park with Linfield before moving across the water to Oldham Athletic in May 2009 as a scholar, he impressed initially and made a handful of first-team appearances in his first season with the club but a sending off in a reserve game set him back and a high turnover of mangers meant his first-team opportunities were greatly reduced the next two seasons.
When Lee Johnson replaced Paul Dickov in the Latics hotseat Millar’s fortunes seemed to turn around as he found a more regular spot in the team and laid on several goals that would prove crucial in the club’s League One survival but at the end of the 2013-14 season Millar was released after six seasons with the club.
Upon returning to Northern Ireland Millar returned to Linfield, now managed by Warren Feeney, after a successful trial period with the club and after being in and out of the side initially he has now managed to make the right wing berth his own and become a player in the side.
Millar recently played his 250th game in a Linfield shirt and en route the boyhood Blues fan has picked up two league winners medals, a League Cup, an Irish Cup and a County Antrim Shield and chipped in with a number of goals and assists to earn his place on our shortlist.
Finally, we come to another player who made the move across the water after impressing in his Irish League days.
Whyte made his debut for Crusaders in the 2013-14 season before going onto become a key player for Stephen Baxter’s side the following season.
Whyte’s first season as a Crues regular ended with a league winners made and he also notched 10 goals during the season and the following season, despite fewer appearances, Whyte helped his teammates secure back to back league titles.
Whyte’s final season in North Belfast proved to be the tricky wingers most fruitful season as he won his third league title with the club, scored 24 goals in all competition and won the Ulster Player and Young Player of the Year awards.
All this began to attract attention from across the water and eventually, Whyte signed for Oxford United in League One for the 2018-19 season and went on to make almost 50 appearances in his first season in the professional game, moving up another league to Championship side Cardiff City for the current campaign.
While with Crusaders, Whyte received international recognition with seven caps for the Northern Ireland U21 side and soon after moving to Oxford he made his full international debut against Israel coming on as a sub and scoring with his first touch 108 seconds later.
Whyte has went on to win several more senior international caps and it would be fair to say that his career across the water has fared slightly better than Smyth’s to this point but both players have plenty of football ahead of them.
You can vote for who you think should take the right-wing slot on our Twitter page (@o_t_turnstile) and if you disagree with our choices feel free to tell us yours. We’ll be back soon with our contenders for the opposite flank.