Slaven Bilic: Dara O'Shea's West Brom future starting now
Albion head coach Slaven Bilic has praised the maturity of Dara O’Shea – as the youngster continues to shine at right-back.
Snapped up from Irish outfit St Kevin’s Boys back in 2016, O’Shea impressed at centre-half as he progressed through the club’s academy.
But at the turn of the year, Bilic opted to play him at right-back in the FA Cup games against West Ham and Charlton.
And ever since, the 21-year-old has gone from strength-to-strength with O’Shea putting in a series of towering displays prior to lockdown – and then impressing once again in the recent wins over Sheffield Wednesday and Hull.
“Dara is clever – he thinks about the game, nothing surprises him,” Bilic said. “He has a good touch but he still keeps things simple. But he does have that good touch, he could complicate things but he doesn’t.
“He is very mature for his age. But, to be fair, I expect it from him.
“As a young player you can have your ups and downs but he is very mature.
“He has got a plan no matter where he is – whether with or without the ball. For both phases of the game he has got a plan.
“He thinks I’m going to do this because of that. Or I am going to do that because of this.
“And that’s easy to say but for a player to have that – not every player has that but Dara has.
“The other things like motivation, focus, that little of self-confidence that you need – I saw that with Dara in the first week of training.
“He wanted to impress us straight away.”
O’Shea isn’t the only defender Bilic has helped make more versatile with Nathan Ferguson also seen as centre-half prior to the Croatian’s arrival.
But his performances at full-back led to Crystal Palace agreeing to pay £11million for him in January.
That move collapsed when the London side picked up a problem with his knee, but Albion are still expected to receive a substantial cash windfall for Ferguson when he joins another club – with the fee likely to be decided by a tribunal.
And Bilic can see similarities between O’Shea and Ferguson.
“I think Dara will continue to do both,” Bilic said when asked if he sees O’Shea long-term future at right-back or centre-half. “He is a bit like Nathan – they are not the same type of player, but he is like Nathan in terms of his quality and because he has a bit of everything.
“I put Nathan as a right-back, but I think he would have done the same job at centre-back and the same goes for Dara.
“I said ages ago Dara is the reason we only bought in one centre-half in the summer. We lost three centre-backs, but we brought in only Semi (Ajayi). Why? Because of Dara.
“Then we put him at right-back for the West Ham and Charlton games – the cup games.
“We talked to him, we showed him a few things – but with Dara everything is no problem.
“He is the present and future of West Brom.”