Rising star Bailey Peacock-Farrell says he is remaining ‘loyal to Northern Ireland’ amid interest from England in the young goalkeeper.
The 21-year-old, who was born in Darlington, has been sounded out by English coaches about a switch, but said it was an ‘honour’ to represent Northern Ireland.
“I’ve had several chats with the England goalkeeping coaches,” said Peacock-Farrell, who has established himself as number one at Leeds United this season.
“One rang me the other week in fact, but I’m loyal to Northern Ireland.
“They got in really early and made me feel wanted.
“At that time when I met Michael (O’Neill) I was a nobody, I was just a young keeper.
“But for him to take that time out of his day to come and chat to me, and tell me about Northern Ireland, the pathway and what we’re playing on doing as a country, for me that was special.
“I don’t think you’d get that from any other international manager.
“That togetherness is one of the main things that Michael brings...that family orientated values.
“It’s a great honour to have that opportunity to be involved with the team.”
Peacock-Farrell’s stock has risen at club level this season after new Leeds head coach Marcelo Bielsa installed him as first-choice ahead of on-loan Chelsea keeper Jamal Blackman.
He is tipped to make his competitive debut for Northern Ireland in Saturday’s UEFA Nations League tie against Bosnia-Herzegovina, which would end any England interest in him under FIFA rules.
Peacock-Farrell would love to become Northern Ireland number one, but he knows he will have a real fight on his hands for the jersey despite becoming a regular fixture between the sticks at Elland Road.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a natural transition, purely because we’ve got two other really good goalkeepers here,” he said.
“What I do at club level obviously may sway things but with Michael [McGovern] and Trevor [Carson] doing really well, Michael’s been the number one for a long time now.
“To say being number one at Leeds makes me number one here – you can’t really go along those lines.
“You’ve just got to come away with the lads and train as hard as you can and then it’s up to the manager if he decides to go with me or Trev or Mike.
“It would mean a great deal. If I can manage to be the number one at such a young age, a goalkeeper’s career can be 15, 20 years.
“If I can maximise that as number one then I’ve got a long future ahead of me and a lot of games – and it would be a great privilege to make that [position] mine.
“To join the list of exceptional goalkeepers who have played for Northern Ireland – and then obviously the current list that we’ve got now, I think it’s great, and if I can manage to do that and be a part of that it would mean a great deal for me.”
It will certainly mean a great deal to the 21-year-old’s family, especially his Grandfather Jim Farrell, who is from Enniskillen.
“I think my for him and my family as a whole, they will all be overwhelmed and proud to see me playing at International level,” he said.
“Certainly my Grandad, who has that connection, will feel it a little bit more. It’s a massive achievement. I know he’s very proud and he will be watching the games. “
It has been a whirlwind few months for Paecock-Farrell after forcing his way into the Leeds United team and then making his Northern Ireland debut in the summer against Panama.
“Yeah, it’s been a bit crazy,” he said. “Obviously, football is kind of like that. Sometimes you’re thrown into it and you’ve just got to deal with it and go from there.
“Sometimes if you have time to reflect and look back on what you’ve done, it’s a great achievement so far, but my focus is on just that next game and progressing from there. It’s been mad to make my international debut and obviously it’ll be a competitive one if it’s this weekend.
“It has been kind of a whirlwind experience so far. This summer was quite a quick turnaround, we got a new manager and it was a very intense pre-season.
“To keep the number one spot has been a great achievement so far and we’re doing really well as a team – still unbeaten and we’re progressing quite well, I think.”