We came to see the future but Chris Forrester showed us the present ain't half bad
"Is he really 17? He looks about 29!"
Sam Curtis may not be around St Patrick's Athletic too much longer. He has an exciting future ahead and will attract the interest of many clubs. He is one of the club's most exciting prospects since a certain Chris Forrester broke into the senior squad, back in 2011.
When Forrester made his senior debut, for Bohemians, in 2011, Curtis was five years old.
On Friday night at a drenched, clinging Richmond Park the 17-year-old defender showed why he is so highly rated, regarded and why he has already an Ireland U21 appearance to his name.
The Navan native jumped quickly from Parkvilla to St Kevin's Boys and Shamrock Rovers II before St Patrick's Athletic brought him, and brother Ben, to the club. When the right-back made his senior bow against Waterford, in August 2021, he set a club record as their youngest ever player. He was just 15 years and 255 days old.
You can't come to Richmond Park without at least a dozen people telling you to watch out for Sam Curtis. The word is out. The lad carries himself like he has been around a while, is plenty talkative and clearly has the respect of his teammates, and the Saints faithful. He got a standing ovation when he was subbed off in the final 10 minutes of a routine win over UCD.
He had marauded up the right flank all evening, showing an impressive 0-30 burst that makes him a demon for the overlap. Like most players that just have the knack, he always appears to have that extra second on the ball. It was not a perfect performance but he was rarely troubled in defence and put some excellent balls through and behind the UCD lines.
And then there was Chris Forrester.
Chris Forrester still pulling the strings
If Sam Curtis looks to have an extra second on the ball, Chris Forrester is doing some Dr Strange time-bending, seeing around corners and doing it all with a smile on his face.
Granted, UCD will strike fear into no-one this season unless they can can seriously get their act together. Still, Forrester was the orchestrator supreme at a rain-soaked Richmond Park and provided those present, or watching on LOI TV, with several reminders of what made so many of us first mark his card.
Two of my party at the game, on Friday, were from Germany and grew up going to 60,000-seater stadiums and watching the likes of Philipp Lahm, Marco Reus, İlkay Gündoğan, Douglas Costa, Robert Lewandowski, and more. Ahead of the game, the best dice roll I had to get them invested in the game was showing them some of Forrester's best goals [just head over to YouTube, and thank me later].
Eoin Doyle - scorer of more than 200 senior level goals - is the other name you might point to but Forrester is the one you say, 'Watch him tonight' about.
He excelled against UCD. He was the string-puller and the man that ran the show as St Pat's collected only their second league win of the season. Even with the pitch sodden and the ball needing extra oomph on it to reach players, the 30-year-old was on the money with over 90% of his passing. For a guy that was trying inside cuts, under press out-balls and ambitious passes to men in motion, it was a high risk, high return kind of night.
Forrester's first goal was of the bread and butter variety. An inswinging corner when he lost his marker, got to the near post and nodded home.
His second - the goal that knocked the last bit of UCD's stuffing out - was serene. Forrester made it look much easier than it was to pull off. Jamie Lennon won possession back, Jason McClelland played a well-weighted ball just in front of the charging Forrester.
He was still 30 yards out when he received the ball but he was right on top of UCD goalkeeper Kian Moore within three strides. Moore rushed off his line and a covering defender slid in. Forrester already had his mind made up and waited a beat before dinking the ball over flailing arms and legs to settle the game.
He could have had his hat-trick - after nice build-up work from Jake Mulraney and Sam Curtis - but the ball was hacked clear when he opted to square it, rather than taking a fizz himself.
There will be tougher challenges ahead but St Pat's are a better team than their 9th place, at 7:45pm on Friday, made them look. The have Cork (home) and Drogheda (away) next before two Dublin derbies, against Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers, that should show where they are really at.
Forrester had his stint in England and Scotland [with Peterborough and Aberdeen] from 2015 to 2019. He never quite lit it up, abroad, like he did in Ireland but he looks happy in his skin since settling back in.
Sam Curtis is on the radar for many sides in England, Scotland and further afield. He is the future but his present is pretty decent, too. Sharing a pitch with Chris Forrester helps no end.
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