It has been a few weeks since our last Team of the Teenies poll but what better time to pick it up again and perhaps spark some debate than now.
As things stand our Twitter followers have selected the goalkeeper, back four and right wing positions based on the shortlists decided by our writing team and our Irish League Team of the Teenies currently looks like this:-
Today our attention turns to the opposite flank as we decide on who the best left winger was last decade. As always our writers have agreed on four potential contenders but the final decision lies with our Twitter followers so make sure you vote on the poll over on @o_t_turnstile.
The requirements are that a player must have played a minimum of 50 games between 2010 and 2019 in the Danske Bank Premiership.
First up this week is a player who has had two spells at current league champions Linfield and is now plying his trade with David Jeffrey at Ballymena United.
Considering Aaron Burns played in the Irish League for the entirety of the last decade it’s incredible to believe he is still only in his late 20s and the attacking midfielder could still have plenty of years ahead of him in the Irish League.
Burns started his career with Linfield coming through the club’s academy and made his first-team bow as a substitute in a 4-1 win against one of his future clubs, Coleraine, in December 2008 and followed this up with his first start the following week in a 0-0 draw against Lisburn Distillery.
Burns made three further appearances in the 2008/09 season and over the next three seasons began to feature more and more regularly, chipping in with a few goals on occasion. However at the end of the 2011-12 season Burns failed to agree terms on a new contract and signed for Portadown but the Ports suffered a disappointing campaign and after a single season at Shamrock Park the player returned to Windsor Park.
In his second spell with the club Burns established himself as a key player in a successful side and by the time he joined Coleraine in January 2018 had made 273 appearances for Linfield, scored 91 goals and won four league titles, and two Irish Cups.
Burns left South Belfast for a second time in January 2018 and was unlucky not to add a fifth league title to his tally as Oran Kearney’s excellent Coleraine side were just pipped to the title by Crusaders but he did win another Irish Cup scoring the winner against Cliftonville in the final in the process.
Burns was a regular in the Coleraine side last season, scoring 7 goals in 36 appearances, but left at the end of the campaign and linked up with the manager who gave him his Linfield debut, David Jeffrey, at Ballymena.
Next we turn our attentions to a player who started the last decade outside of the top flight with Carrick Rangers before going onto win medals galore with Stephen Baxter’s Crusaders side.
Paul Heatley started his career with Cliftonville and made a handful of appearances and this was followed with stints at Newry City and Brantwood. Heatley eventually joined Carrick Rangers and helped the club to promotion to the top flight for the 2011-12 season but could not help them stay up as the side finished bottom the following season.
Heatley however, was not to return to The Championship with Baxter swooping to add the winger to his Crues panel ahead of the 2012-13 season.
Heatley has become one of the first names on Baxter’s teamsheet at Seaview and has clocked up almost 350 appearances in the famous red and black shirt and scored over 150 goals for the club, an incredible return for a wide player.
In his first two seasons with the club the Crues finished trophyless but the silverware was soon to follow as Heatley and the Crues won back to back league titles in 2014-15 and 2015-16, they lost out the following season to Linfield on the last day of the campaign but the Gibson Cup would find its way back to North Belfast at the end of 2017-18 season.
Heatley has also won two County Antrim Shield’s (2017-18 and 2018-19) and an Irish Cup (2018-19) and was named Ulster Football and Northern Ireland Football Writer’s Player of the Year in 2014-15 but I think we’ll all agree that the highlight of his career came yesterday when he was named in our very own Adrian’s all-time Carrick Rangers XI.
Next up is a player who has lit up the Irish League top flight since joining Glenavon from Championship side Ballyclare Comrades in 2015.
Lurgan Blues manager Gary Hamilton has never been afraid to give youth a chance but when he plucked Cooper from the Comrades perhaps even Hamilton was surprised at how big an impact he would go on to make as he helped the side to a 3rd place finish and European football in his first season and also picked up the Ulster Young Player of the Year award.
In fact, the former Northern Ireland U-21 international impressed so much in his first season in the top flight that while he was not selected for Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland squad for the 2016 European Championships he, along with then Linfield player Paul Smyth, was taken as part of the travelling squad to train with the senior squad.
Cooper also won his first senior trophy of his career in that debut season with Glenavon as he started in the 2-0 Irish Cup Final victory over Linfield at Windsor Park.
After continuing to impress at Mourneview Park it was announced late in January 2018 that Cooper would join David Healy’s Linfield side at the end of the 2017-18 season when his contract expired.
Cooper made his debut for his new side against his former club on the opening day of the 2018-19 season and scored his first goal for the Blues on his second appearance against Institute less than a week later.
Cooper’s first season at Linfield finished with the wide player having made 39 appearances and scoring eight goals and he also added a league winners medal to his name but missed out on the League Cup final win due to illness.
Cooper could be set to add a second league winners medal to his name if and when the current season resumes and at the age of just 24 there could be plenty more to come.
Finally we turn our attentions to another player currently at Linfield, Jordan Stewart. Former Glentoran winger Stewart has proven himself a versatile player on the pitch but makes his way onto our shortlist for the wide left berth.
Stewart’s youth career saw him turn out for both Linfield and Crusaders before joining Glentoran and making his first-team debut in the 2013-14 season.
Stewart quickly became a firm favourite at The Oval over the next two seasons and in total made 120 appearances for The Glens and scored 33 goals and also played in the 2014-15 Irish Cup final victory against Portadown.
While with the East Belfast Club Stewart played twice for the Northern Ireland U-19 and Northern Ireland U-21 sides and interest from across the water would soon follow with Stoke, Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough all reportedly interested in his services at various points but the winger eventually opted to sign for Swindon Town in League One.
Stewart spent two seasons In England and had a brief loan spell with Grimsby but all in all struggled to settle across the water and would return to his native Belfast and sign for his boyhood club Linfield for the 2017-18 season.
Stewart’s time at Windsor Park started fantastically with a debut winning goal against La Fiorita of San Marino in The Champions League qualifying stages and a hat-trick in September 2017 against Ballinamallard.
Despite this impressive start Stewart ended his first season at Linfield trophyless and at the beginning of the 2018-19 season Stewart found his opportunities limited and was transfer-listed towards the end of August.
No move materialised though and Stewart has since gone on to become a key player for the club, winning the league and League Cup last season and currently sits on 71 appearances at Windsor Park and 18 goals.
Much like Burns and Cooper, Stewart is only 25 years old and his best years could well still lie ahead of him.
Now it is over to you to decide which of the four players we have put forward will make it into our Team of the Teenies, remember to cast your vote on our twitter page, @o_t_turnstile, and if you disagree with our shortlist feel free to let us know.