Linfield teenager Trai Hume tipped to become Northern Ireland star

Linfield teenager Trai Hume tipped to become Northern Ireland star

Former Irish League midfielder Barry Johnston has tipped Linfield teenage sensation Trai Hume to become a future Northern Ireland star.

The 19-year-old defender – who is valued at £200,000 – is expected to move across the water during the January transfer window.

Sunderland are believed to be in pole position to land Hume, who scored his second goal of the season in Monday’s Big Two derby stalemate at Windsor Park.

Johnston – who won back-to-back titles with Cliftonville – says Hume’s insatiable hunger to succeed sets him apart from many other young players in the Irish League.

“I can’t speak highly enough of the kid,” Johnston told Belfast Live’s That’s What I Call Football podcast.

“I think it’s Celtic, Sunderland and Lincoln who are in for Trai. Without any disrespect to Lincoln, Celtic and Sunderland are two massive clubs.

“I am sure he will be a success wherever he goes. I have said this before, he wants to be a footballer. Every single day that kid tries to learn and improve. I don’t think there has been a day he has taken the foot off the gas.

“I am glad he is getting a chance. I read an interview where David Healy says he was shocked Trai didn’t get a chance to go when he was younger.

“But I think it is a benefit for young players playing in our league. He is full-time now, and he played 40-odd games for Ballymena last season and 30-odd this season with Linfield.

“Probably 70 games all in playing at a high level of football. That is better than playing development football in England, and you will see the benefits of that and he will go on to play international football with Northern Ireland, no bother.”

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Under 17 and 19 manager Gerard Lyttle has hailed Hume’s resilience after missing out on a cross-channel move a couple of years ago.

Lyttle says Hume had to “reinvent himself” after starting off his career as a centre-back.

“He is a kid who never gave up. He could have easily chucked it in,” Lyttle said.

“He was in a very good 2001 age group at international level, and a lot of those players got a move.

“I think the reason Trai didn’t get a move is because he played centre-back coming through the ranks. And he was probably just a little bit too small to be s centre-back who was going to make it in England.

“So he has more or less reinvented himself, in terms of his position. The biggest thing he did was go to Ballymena on loan and get a full season in men’s football playing right wing-back.

“He has played every game at Under 21 level at right wing-back, and he just has a bit of everything. He is talented, and he is tactically and technically very good. He understands the game and is magnificent in the air considering he is not a big 6ft-plus player.

“He is good going forward, you saw that with his goal against Glentoran. He wants to get in the box and get on the end of things. he also scores headers and is tough in the tackle.

“He wants to be a footballer, and he is a dream to have in a team and I am delighted there are clubs recognising his talent and hopefully it is the good for our game.

“I can see him having a career in international football, he is that good in my opinion.”

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