Northern Ireland boss thinks Canaries prospect Lewis is a star in the making
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Jamal Lewis can be a superstar, insists his Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill.
The 20-year-old, pictured, has already established himself as Norwich City's first choice left back, and there is now a vacancy to do the same at international level following the recent retirement of Chris Brunt.
Lewis missed out on a summer tour through injury, following his stunning club breakthrough and senior Northern Ireland debut last season against South Korea.
The youngster, however, is in line to start on Saturday in the Uefa Nations opener against Bosnia in Belfast, and O'Neill is in no doubt the Canaries' starlet is a hot prospect.
'We really liked what we saw of him against South Korea and I think he's a player with a big, big future,' said O'Neill. 'Unfortunately, Jamal missed the summer tour of Central America so it's good to have him back in. Jamal could easily be with the 21s, so we have to be realistic.
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'He's played, I think, maybe 20 first-team games over the course of this season and last, so we have to give him time.
'In relation to the left-back position, Daniel Lafferty would be another option, but he has played very little over the last 18 months at Sheffield United, so there's a real opportunity for Jamal to come in and make that position his own.
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'I think the Bosnia game is going to be tough, they're a good team.
'I looked at their World Cup qualifying group and probably one result cost them.
'In (Edin) Dzeko they've got one of the top strikers in Europe and (Miralem) Pjanic is arguably one of the top midfield players, certainly in Serie A.'
Lewis' club and international team mate, Michael McGovern, faces a battle to stay ahead of Leeds' rising talent Bailey Peacock-Farrell to retain the number one jersey for his country.
'It's not so much a headache but I've got three good goalkeepers so it's a nice problem to have,' said O'Neill. 'Michael's situation at Norwich hasn't changed a lot but Trevor (Carson) and Bailey are playing and Bailey is playing in a team at the top end of the Championship. He's had a very good start, four clean sheets in six games that he has played.
'It's a nice problem to have. Too often in the past we have had players not presenting us with this choice.'