No sooner had the season ended than the annual League of Ireland merry-go-round of players moving clubs had gotten under way. Meaning that we currently find ourselves in the early stages of the zenith of insanity, with some players just hoping that they’ll get a contract offer from a club, some clubs just hoping that there’ll be enough players willing to accept contracts from them, and Dave from the pub hoping that just enough of his fabricated “inside information” actually turns out to be correct so he’ll henceforth be known as an “in the know”.
One would be forgiven for taking a break from the commotion and not even bothering with trying to keep up to date with the toing and froing until the start of next season in March, only to then be greeted with the task of coming to terms with almost every single side from both the Premier and First divisions being near-entirely new look.
One player whose availability has piqued the interest of clubs and the media alike however is PFAI Player of the Year, PFAI Team of the Year alumnus and man most likely to get a L’Oréal contract were he not a footballer: Richie Towell.
The Inchicore man is coming off a stunning third season with Dundalk, being the standout player in the country and scoring a record-equalling 25 goals from midfield as the Lilywhites completed a dominant league and cup double.
In amongst the jubilation for Stephen Kenny’s men, there has been a muted sense of resignation for them that they would have to do without their star performer next season. That had been the case since the early stages of the league campaign; Towell had impressed in his first two seasons since his return to Ireland from Celtic but this went above and beyond, to the point where they can probably consider themselves fortunate that he wasn’t wrested from them during the summer transfer window.
(video from: RTÉ Sport)
Alas, Towell stayed to see out the duration of his contract, with his now free agent status leading to his list of potential suitors lengthening and thus making the speculation on where his future lies even more rife.
Reports claim that quite left-field offers from both Turkey and Poland were turned down by Towell, and Bristol Rovers’ vocal interest was stifled by the midfielder himself, respectfully stating that he doesn’t believe his talents belong in a league of sub-Championship standard.
And so it seems that current Championship pacesetters Brighton are who Towell will be plying his trade for come January. This had appeared to be the case a number of weeks ago, only for reports to then claim that the deal had stagnated, leading us to then come full circle in recent days where, if Twitter and a Brighton fan forum are to be believed, Towell was in attendance for the Seagulls’ win against Birmingham on Saturday and the move is set to go through within the next 48 hours.
It’s a move that makes sense on both sides when taken at face value. On Brighton’s end, the risk is minimal. Zero transfer fee and comparatively little in wages for a player who operated at Towell’s level last season seems a no-brainer. While from Towell’s perspective he’s joining a side whose ambitions match his own, a team who have been knocking on the door of promotion season after season and at this particular moment look more likely to achieve that feat than before.
A challenge awaits in vying for a regular starting place in the team over either of the imposing midfield twosome of Dale Stephens and Biram Kayal, but one would think the 2013 PFAI Young Player of the Year won’t be short of opportunities to stake his claim, nor will be short of desire to do so having been afforded a second chance to prove himself at a higher standard of football than can be found in this country.
While there may be question marks over how high of a ceiling his ability has, these will be answered in due course, but what cannot be denied is Towell’s faith in his own capabilities. Furthermore, with the potential Cinderella story subtext of an Ireland call-up with Euro 2016 on the horizon, Towell couldn’t have any greater incentive to hit the ground running in England when the time comes.
(video from: Tiki Taka TV