I don’t think I’ve ever typed the words ‘Toulon Tournament’ this much before - ever. Fresh off the back of two international call-ups for Reading players to play at the prestigious competition, we’ve got another contender: Josh Barrett.
The young playmaker has been chosen to be part of Ireland’s under-21 squad for the Toulon Tournament next month. He wasn’t originally supposed to be part of their plans, but the withdrawal through injury of another player, UCD’s Neil Farrugia, has given him an opportunity to shine on the international stage.
Barrett’s involvement kicks off on June 3 when Ireland face China at 3.30pm in Group C. They play Mexico three days later at 7.30pm before going up against Bahrain on June 9 at 3.00pm.
He joins Danny Loader and Michael Olise at the competition in June - they’re representing England and France respectively. As far as I can tell, involvement for a trio of Reading youngsters means this is our biggest single involvement in the Toulon Tournament.
Jordan Obita turned out for England in 2014 - and scored against Qatar, while in 2017 Zak Jules and Jordan Holsgrove were part of a Scotland squad that finished third.
Ireland under-21 manager Stephen Kenny said of Barrett:
“He’s a very different to Neil [Farrugia], not a chalk on the boots sort of winger, he is a right-footed player who plays on the left but looks to cut inside. It’s a good opportunity to have a look at him. He’s had a good end to the season at Reading.”
It’s certainly good to see Barrett’s recent rise in stock reflected at international level. He had been well out of the first-team picture for quite some time, having only made a handful of appearances under Brian McDermott and Jaap Stam in the last couple of seasons.
Jose Gomes rewarded Barrett’s good form at under-23 level with a recall, and the Irishman repaid that with some bright cameos at the end of last season, looking bright in a substitute appearance at Middlesbrough before starting against Birmingham City.
Kenny’s right to highlight Barrett’s tactical role. Although the youngster has previously lined up in a more central role, he’s become a left winger later on; cutting inside where he can then go for goal or try to set up one of his teammates. He doesn’t naturally have the same level of pace of, say, Michael Olise, so can’t offer similar threats of stretching the play or getting in behind.
Nonetheless, his skill-set gives him a clear role in the squad that’s distinct from his teammates. With Reading needing to rebuild their options out wide this summer with Callum Harriott joining Sone Aluko in leaving the club and Garath McCleary only getting older, there’s an opportunity for Barrett to show Jose Gomes what he can do in the first team.