Wonderkid Connolly can live up to the hype
Brighton striker Aaron Connolly has announced himself on the Premier League stage and the 19-year-old appears to have all the attributes to be a big star.
The Seagulls’ forward has been unleashed by boss Graham Potter in recent weeks and has immediately made a name for himself. His two goals in the 3-0 win over Tottenham on Saturday were eye-catching and the Irish youngster has a confident air about him, clearly believing he belongs in the Premier League.
There have been plenty of so-called ‘wonderkids’ down the years who have initially impressed with early goals when bursting onto the scene, but Connolly seems unlikely to be a flash in the pan and he could be very much the real deal, even if passing judgement on anyone after just a handful of top-flight appearances is not always wise.
Connolly has got Brighton and Republic of Ireland fans excited and even though he’s only coming to the attention of a wider football audience, he’s actually someone who has been talked about over the last year behind the scenes as being a possible breakout star this season.
He’s recently been called into the full Ireland squad and is expected to make his debut in his country’s upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers, with boss Mick McCarthy singing his praises.
If he keeps scoring goals in his fledgling career, the hype will only grow but Connolly is a player who has been bubbling away, on the periphery of the Brighton squad for a good while now and seems set to be given plenty more chances in the coming months in the first team – and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him continuing to make rapid progress.
The reason for all the optimism? Connolly’s goalscoring stats for Brighton’s Under-23s. His record and ratio is mightily impressive at that level as the Galway-born teen has hit 31 in 42 games for the Under-23s – figures that meant Potter simply could not ignore him any longer.
Again, there have been a whole host of young players who have had fantastic records at youth level so it is, of course, no guarantee they will transfer their form when given a chance at senior level – but Connolly has hit the ground running.
Comparing him to previous starlets who made a big impression in the top flight when very young straight away – Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney being the prime examples – is probably not wise but Connolly appears to be of the same mindset – a forward who plays with no fear and backs his own ability to get the better of Premier League defences.
His second goal on Saturday was a brilliantly-curled effort from just inside the area that spoke volumes about the confidence Connolly carries with him.
He’s only at the start but it could be the beginning of something special.
Aidan Perkins is a senior journalist that specialises in football stories. Aidan, a Liverpool fan, also has a broad knowledge of several other sports.