Jaap Stam has been effusive with his praise of Liam Kelly, after the young Irishman received his first call up for the senior Ireland national team.
The Reading academy product who has forced his way into a first team midfield spot this season, and it was only ever going to be a matter of time until the Republic of Ireland took notice of the diminutive playmaker.
Speaking to the Reading official site, manager Jaap Stam said:
“I think it is a great moment for Liam Kelly and I think he deserves it because he is a very good player.
“In what he has shown this season with us he has been very impressive with the quality that he has.
“He’s been working very hard and he’s earned that call up from the national team. I think it is a very big compliment to him that he achieved that. It’s what you want all the youngsters to aspire towards, to work hard for the club and for the team but also to work very hard and put everything in to get results for yourself."
Kelly's call up reminded Stam of his debut for the national side, where he explained his wife took the phone call — and he didn't believe her when she told him.
The former Manchester United centre back then expanded on how he thought his protege would fare on the international stage:
“A lot of players go to the national team and think ‘maybe I need to do something differently because I’m here with all the big and international players.’ That isn’t the case, you are there because of how you’ve played and how you are as a person and as a player.
“People always talk about Liam’s size and whether that is going to be a problem.
“If you look at him and you look at some of the really top players in the world they are a similar size to him. He uses his quality on the ball and his physique against big players.
“I think if he is himself and plays the way he has been playing with his club I’m sure he will be staying with that team. If you look at Liam Kelly as a player with the qualities that he has I think everybody can use them."
Kelly has made 20 league appearances for The Royals this season, scoring one goal and laying on four for his teammates.