Dutchmen and flying visits: Brighton 'keeper Tim Krul was in Dublin yesterday evening to promote the latest leg of Three Ireland’s EStars competition, a League of Legends competition taking place at Tallaght Stadium.
Krul sat down for a chat with Balls in which he professed his love of e-sports.
I just find it amazing the number of people who are involved in it. In the beginning I couldn't understand why you'd watch someone else play a game! But I like playing FIFA and Call of Duty. It's incredible, the number of people who play.
There are a lot in the Brighton dressing room who think they are the best [at FIFA]. Knockaert is probably the best. I'm probably not too far away.
Brighton's debut season in the Premier League is on the precipice of success: they are eight points clear of the drop with four games to go, although Southampton (in 18th) have a game in hand. "It's an eight-point gap now so it should be enough, but it's not as there are five games still to play. We've got a good gap but another win should do it. We've had a good season up to now. We've hovered above the relegation zone all season, and if we stay up it's a great achievement".
If Brighton do stay up, it will be another vindication for Chris Hughton, one of the few Premier League managers who doesn't feel the need to indulge in ceaseless self-promotion to be considered a success. "I like that he doesn't get carried away", says Krul. "What you see is what you get with him".
This sums him up: when he won the Manager of the Month, when I congratulated him the first thing he said that 'no, no, no, it's about the team it's not about me'. I like that about him. You can go into his office and have a normal conversation. If it's good or bad, at least you know where you stand.
The Irish influence at Brighton extends beyond their manager. Krul describes Shane Duffy as a "rock for Brighton" and a "leader". Beyond the established Duffy, there are a couple of Irish youngsters trying to make the breakthrough at the club.
Among them is midfielder Jayson Molumby. Originally from Waterford, Molumby plays at under-19 level with Ireland and made his senior debut for Brighton in the league cup against Barnet and also started the subsequent defeat against Bournemouth.
Krul has been impressed with Molumby and his fellow Irish under-19 striker, Aaron Connolly who is also on the books at Bournemouth.
The game I played at the start in the Carling Cup - or whatever it's called now -he had a really good game against Bournemouth. He is a really big talent and while he's had a couple of injuries this year, if he has a full pre-season he will be pushing close to the first-team.
Aaron Connolly is another big talent. These guys have a big future and it's about getting a chance. They have a pre-seaosn ahead to do that, and they are at the right club with the right manager who will give them opportunities.
While Brighton have had a fine season, Krul's has been difficult. Since joining in the summer, he has been on the bench as Hughton has preferred to use Matt Ryan.
Of course[it's been frustrating]. Im a professional, I'm fit again and I want to show people I'm back. But Matt Ryan has been doing great for Brighton and it's hard to get him out of the team! But I have to keep fighting, I'm fitter than I've ever been, and hopefully we stay up and I have a good pre-season.
Krul joined Albion from Newcastle, where he has spent 11 years of his career. Having ruptured his cruciate knee ligament playing for Holland in 2015, Krul was injured when Rafa Benitez arrived and failed to make an impression under the Spaniard. Ultimately, his departure from Newcastle was abrupt, and Krul wants to prove a point to Benitez next season.
Being at a club for 11, 12 years and it's a massive part of my life. I had some great times there, I have a great relationship with the fans. Listen, injuries happen in a career. That it had to end like that, nobody would have wanted it. That's football. The manager wanted another goalkeeper and wanted me out. That's football. I'm 30, it's up to me to show that he's made the wrong decision. I'm pleased I'm fit, I've been involved in every game this season and I can't wait to show people I'm back at the level I was.
I was injured when he came and he hasn't really seen me. He wanted his own Spanish keeper in, and while the fans would have loved for me to stay, he chose otherwise. So for me: move on.