Express & Star

Walsall's David Okagbue the latest off Irish talent production line

St Kevin’s Boys Club have produced a host of household names in the professional game – from Arsenal legend Liam Brady in the 1970s to Premier League stalwarts such as Stephen Carr, Ian Harte and Damien Duff.


Brighton’s teenage sensation Evan Ferguson is the latest headline act to emerge from their ranks.

Ferguson spent nine years with Walsall defender David Okagbue, as the pair won trophy after trophy alongside one another for the Dublin-based club. And for coach Karl Lamb, who has dedicated his life to nurturing Ireland’s most promising talent, every success story is the greatest possible accolade he can receive for his work.

“It’s like a conveyor belt,” Lamb explains. “Young lads see the likes of David do well, or Evan, who is the golden boy of Irish football and it recycles itself. Parents see our players go to England and they want their five-year-old to be there one day too. It just keeps feeding itself and the success of David and Evan continues to add to the reputation of the club.”

Okagbue has developed into a key figure at the back during his loan spell at Bescot, and admits he feels honoured to be part of SKB’s proud heritage. “We had a great team. Karl Lamb himself was a great manager and I owe a lot to him,” Okagbue said.

“It feels great to be one of those who’ve gone proud and done well.

“I couldn’t be prouder and I am so thankful for everything they did for me when I was younger.”

Okagbue first landed on SKB’s radar at the age of eight after making his first footsteps into the game at his local club St Mochtas.

The defender would spend the next nine years at SKB, where he would travel Europe facing esteemed academies such as Albion, Manchester United, Manchester City, Marseille and Barcelona.

Despite going toe-to-toe with the likes of Barca and Spain starlet Gavi, Okagbue was initially overlooked as a young player.

He watched on as his team-mates represented Ireland at youth level and had trials at professional clubs. But his chance finally came when SKB travelled to Stoke City.

“The big one for Dave was when we played in a tournament in Oakham,” Lamb recalls.

“We happened to play against Stoke and David was brilliant that day. He ultimately got invited on a trial to Stoke off the back of that tournament. Stoke signed him almost immediately and the rest was history. That was his big break. If he hadn’t played well during that Oakham tournament then he could still be here today because he really did go under the radar.”

He concluded: “It’s great to see him doing so well. I still keep in touch with him and I plan on going over to a Walsall game soon enough, especially with my connection with Ross (Tierney) too.”