Brighton & Hove Albion under-21 coach Simon Ireland praised the impact of both Paddy McCourt and Nzuzi Toko, as the Seagulls beat Derby County 1-0 at Culver Road today.
McCourt and Toko both played 90 minutes for Ireland’s side and the under-21 coach explained how valuable it was to have them in and around the dressing room.
He told seagulls.co.uk, “They’re still a young side so it’s nice to have a couple of experienced players in there.
“They help the team not just in terms of playing, but they’re good lads and help the boys with their expertise of how to manage the game.
“Their input around the dressing room and how they handle themselves is a great example to the players.
“Paddy was still working hard in the 89th/90th minute to try and close things down. When you say to the lads that you’ve got to work hard from minute one to minute 90 and they see a senior professional like that who has been doing it at the top clubs, then they understand that’s what you’ve got to do to get to the next level.
“He’s got something different and can unlock doors with his ability. He’s got real quality and magic in his feet, allowing him to do things other players can’t do.
“It’s unconventional skill that he produces, with little bits of magic like a little pass or a bit of individual one-v-one skill, but he also works hard and understands the game.
“Toko also worked hard today and is adapting to the English style of the game, but he’s a competitor that wants to get on the ball and defend when he hasn’t got it. It will be interesting to see how he gets on in the English game.”
“We were organised towards the end and weathered a storm, but I thought we looked quite comfortable in terms of dealing with the efforts that they had.”
“In the last couple of league games we’ve conceded just after half-time and in the couple of recent friendlies against Bournemouth and Charlton we’ve been trying to work on this, so it was nice that we scored just half-time for a change which put us on the front foot.
“Overall there wasn’t much in it; they nullified what we were trying to do and we nullified what they were trying to do, so it was a very close game and it adhered to the old cliché that one goal was going to decide it.
“We knew Derby were going to work hard and press us just like their first-team do. I’ve said many times before that the under-21 sides try and mirror what their first-team do, so it’s easier for the manager to see any progression among the players.
Ireland was also pleased to secure a first win of the season and admitted there was not a lot to choose between the two sides on the day.