Football

Bolton Fans Angry After Ireland U18 Subbed On Championship Debut

Bolton Fans Angry After Ireland U18 Subbed On Championship Debut

Luca Connell made his Championship debut on Tuesday night as his Bolton side drew 1-1 with Reading.

Connell, an Ireland U18 international, started the game and played 72 minutes.

Earlier this month, the 17-year-old midfielder made his senior debut, coming on as a late sub in the FA Cup third round win against Walsall.

On Friday, he made his first start for the club in the FA Cup fourth round defeat to Bristol City. That appearance saw Connell provide a superb cross for Bolton's only goal of the game.

Amid a tough time for Bolton - they are second from bottom of the league and struggling financially - Connell is a shining light.

Supporters praised his performance on Tuesday. Manager Phil Parkinson also called his showing "outstanding".

In his match report of the game, Mark Iles of the Bolton News wrote: "Connell continued to play a different game. Calmness, composure and even a bit of trickery in the right areas, he lacked the tension in his shoulders that players twice his age were showing around him."

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Connell was replaced after 72 minutes by Joe Pritchard. That was a decision which saw boos ring out at the Macron Stadium.

Speaking to BBC Radio Manchester, Parkinson defended the decision, saying he had taken it to protect the young player.

I'm absolutely shocked. We played a young kid who is 17 on Friday [against Bristol City], gave him his debut.

As a staff, we contemplated, 'Mmm, is it a big risk starting him again?' The demands of Championship football, if start him, any more than 60 minutes could be a risk.

Everybody on the bench could see that the kid is tiring and I'm not going to get one of our young kids injured, right.

When I took him off [and there was] that reaction, I was shocked. I just thought, 'Surely everyone can realise that I'm doing it to protect the kid, not because he's not playing well.'

It kind of changed the whole atmosphere in the ground. It's very difficult to play when it's like that.

I'm not bothered about the fans having a go at me. It was the atmosphere created on the pitch for the players - their team, their team - in such a great game. Not only that, I put another kid on.

The Daily Mail reported on Tuesday that several Premier League clubs, including Spurs, Southampton, Brighton and Burnley are interested in Connell.

Connell was born in Liverpool but so far in his international career has played for Ireland at both U17 and U18 levels.

This is his assist from last Friday's FA Cup tie against Bristol City.

Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Sportsfile

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PJ Browne
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