HAVING ALREADY HAD a taste of Premier League football, Shane Duffy this season finds himself in decidedly less glamorous circumstances.
After making one appearance for the Toffees in the league last year, in addition to four during the previous campaign, Duffy is now in the midst of a relegation battle with Yeovil after joining the Championship club on loan back in September.
And while the Glovers may not be having the best of seasons, as they currently sit second from bottom in the Championship, two points from safety, Duffy has still managed to impress.
He initially joined the club on just a one-month loan, before his deal was extended for a further two months, and then in January, he agreed to another spell there, which will see him stay with Gary Johnson’s side until the end of the season.
Duffy has made 23 appearances for Yeovil in total this campaign, and headed in his first goal last weekend, amid a highly credible 1-1 draw away to seventh-placed Reading.
The result was all the more remarkable given that Duffy’s team finished the game with eight men and had to play over 20 minutes with nine men, as three players were all dismissed in separate incidents. While their indiscipline may need addressing, the resilience that Duffy and his teammates showed bodes well for their survival prospects.
And accordingly, Duffy believes that the side have every chance of avoiding relegation.
“We’re very confident that we’ll stay up,” he tells TheScore.ie. “We’re a good team and recently, we’ve found good form for the most important part of the season.
“It’s a tough one because we’re down at the bottom at the minute and I haven’t really been involved with something like this before. But it’s a good challenge and I’m enjoying it.”
The 22-year-old has been gaining acclaim for his performances on a regular basis since joining Yeovil. Have his parent club been suitably impressed?
“They’ve been looking at the games and they’re giving me feedback so it’s all good. You have to be confident that [the first-team breakthrough] will happen at some stage and I am confident. We’ll just wait and see, and I’ll have to take my chance in pre-season.
“I haven’t spoken to Roberto Martinez in a while now, but I spoke to him about a month or two ago.”
Unsurprisingly, given their different footballing styles, Duffy says that there is a palpable “difference” in style between Martinez and his old boss David Moyes.
He clearly has a fondness for Moyes, outlining his “great respect” for the current Manchester United manager, while explaining that he was “brilliant with me”.
And given that he knows him better than most, does he feel his fortunes at Old Trafford are likely to improve eventually?
“It’s difficult for him but I’m confident that he can survive, because he’s great manager. He just needs to get a few of his players in and hopefully he can turn it around.”
Source: Dave Howarth
(Duffy has impressed while on loan at Yeovil this season)
Yet while his former manager has had a frustrating few months, his primary club have gone from strength to strength since Duffy temporarily left. Roberto Martinez’s first season in charge has been an unequivocal success and with 11 games to go, they still have a realistic chance of securing a place in the top four. So in an ideal world, Duffy could be playing Champions League football next year alongside Aiden McGeady, James McCarthy, Seamus Coleman and Darron Gibson.
“I think they probably could [get a Champions League spot],” he says. “They need to win a few games to step up in the running, but they have the players there to do it. So hopefully, a few teams slip up and we can take advantage of it.”
Since Duffy’s temporary departure to Yeovil, both McCarthy and McGeady have joined the Toffees. He is familiar with both, having come into contact with them at various times in the Ireland set-up. He has been impressed with how quickly the pair have settled into life at Goodison Park, and is particularly close with McCarthy, having spoken to him on the phone the night before our interview, saying that the midfielder has been “one of our best players this year”.
However, he reserves special praise for Seamus Coleman, calling him a “role model” for young Irish players such as Duffy.
“You’ve got to look at someone like him because he’s gained so much [since he came to Everton]. You’ve just got to look at how much work he puts in and how he lives and how much he wants to play. Even last year he did well, but he’s just been at a different level this year. He’s a great lad and a great player.”
Right now however, Duffy must put all Everton and Yeovil-related matters to the back of his mind, as he is set to compete in a UEFA U21 Championships Group Six qualifier against Montenegro at Tallaght Stadium today (kick-off 3pm).
The two sides are competing for second spot in the group, with both level on eight points, though the Montenegrans have a game in hand.
“We’re taking it game-by-game, but Wednesday’s a must-win. Hopefully it’ll go well and we’ll get a win and get a few goals to get up our goal average, because we’re playing Germany away then. But we’re all confident [of qualifying].”
And does he hope he can catch the eye of the senior management team while doing so?
“Obviously, the dream is to play for your country. I’m just taking it step-by-step. I want to do well with my club first and then get back into the Everton team and hope [the Irish management] can see me again and I’ll be back in the squad. But until then, I’m just focusing on my own game every Saturday for my club.”
And finally, has Duffy set himself any future goals and if so, where does he see himself in five years’ time?
“Barcelona,” he laughs. “No, I don’t know. You try and take it one step at a time and you want to get as high in the game as you can, and that’s what I’m aiming for.”