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The Rise of Callum Reilly
The last seven weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind for young Callum Reilly. The 19-year-old midfielder whose experience was previously limited to ten minutes at the end of a FA Cup match has gone from Development Squad player to potentially an Irish u21 international midfielder.
With absolutely no disrespect intended to the Warrington-born midfielder, I think at the start of the season most Blues fans would have said “who?” when asked about Reilly. Indeed, on his league debut against Crystal Palace last month there were quite a few tweets on my timeline talking about what Clark was doing, throwing the rookie into the first team. Indeed, if you had said back in August of last year that by the end of January Callum Reilly would have more first team action this season than Darren Ambrose or Keith Fahey who would have believed that?
As games go, his first for the club wasn’t bad. Blues scraped a draw but more importantly some of the energy that had been missing in midfield had been found in Reilly’s young legs. I’m not going to say that he was brilliant first time out, because that would be an exaggeration – he was solid though. It was a good starting debut, and he rightly received plaudits from the fans and reporters alike after it.
Debuts are one thing but being able to replicate it week after week is the biggest step for any young professional in the game – and one that many struggle to make. This is where Callum has come through as he has slowly built on that debut performance, working hard and learning fast and slowly getting himself to a point whereby he’s missed when he doesn’t play (Leeds at home). He’s still by no means the finished article – to expect that from a 19-year-old is a bit much – but he is showing that he can and will improve further. In his spell in the first team he’s added his first professional goal (Huddersfield away) and he wasn’t far off adding to that tally with an effort from range against Brighton on Saturday.
Reilly has evidently impressed more than just me as he has now been handed a call-up to the Republic of Ireland u21 squad for their friendly with the Netherlands on February 6 in Dublin. It’s good to see he’s gained recognition for the way he has played in recent weeks and hopefully it’s more evidence that Blues have another player from their Academy who will be a first team regular for a while yet.
Reilly has been at the club since he was eight and is part of a quartet of players who have been brought through by Richard Beale to the Blues first team squad – the others being Nathan Redmond, Josh Hawker (who is the only one not to have played yet) and Mitch Hancox (who was gleefully having fun on twitter last night with respect to the mob from across the expressway’s failed efforts to make it to Wembley).
For Callum the challenge really starts when players like Jonathan Spector and Keith Fahey properly return to the first team fold – will he be able to keep his place and if not how will he cope with being pushed back to the fringes. It’ll be another test for the young midfielder and it’s another one that I think he’ll come through with flying colours.
Tags: Callum Reilly