The dream shared by Leeds United's Charlie Allen and Alfie McCalmont and a part for Stuart Dallas to play

David Healy's name is well respected in Leeds but across the water in Northern Ireland it's revered.

Friday, 2nd April 2021, 10:30 am
GOAL THREAT - Leeds United's alread-capped Northern Ireland midfielder Alfie McCalmont is scoring for fun on loan at Oldham Athletic. He and Charlie Allen hope to feature in the Northern Ireland midfield in the future. Pic: Getty

It's little wonder when you consider the man obliterated his wee country's goalscoring record.

Colin Clarke topped the list for years with his 13 goals for Northern Ireland. Healy scored twice on his debut and never looked back, retiring with 36 to his name.

It's a record that will take some shifting - Kyle Lafferty is the nearest challenger with 20 and he's 33 years of age now.

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The winner against a star-studded England, the hat-trick in the win over Spain, the time he left Peter Schmeichel grasping at thin air, he provided enough moments of magic to carve out legendary status as an international.

Stuart Dallas isn't quite there yet, nor is he a goalscorer, but he's one of the nation's best servants, one of the first names on the team-sheet and as one of those lucky, talented few to represent Northern Ireland at a major tournament, is well on his way to becoming one of Ulster's favourite sons.

For youngster Charlie Allen, who played for Healy's Linfield and brushes shoulders with Dallas at Thorp Arch, both men are perfect examples on which to try and model himself.

Healy turned it on, in the green jersey of his country, and took it upon himself to be the talisman. Dallas will do anything asked of him, in any position on the pitch, and is as consistent a performer for club and country as you will find. He is equally beloved in Belfast as Beeston.

BIG HOPE - Leeds United's Charlie Allen is widely viewed as one of the most exciting prospects to emerge from the Irish League in recent years.

Allen was back in Belfast this week, part of a Northern Ireland Under 19 training camp. He revealed that Dallas has been a big help around the training ground, a comforting reminder of home and someone to look up to. The teenager is widely considered one of the most exciting talents to emerge from the Irish League since Dallas earned his big move to England.

A recent impressive showing in the midfield for Leeds Under 23s against Wolves saw a little of that excitement spread to his new home county of Yorkshire.

He looked calm, composed and full of skill and bravery on the ball and was willing to get stuck in off it, popping up everywhere and showcasing good mobility and work-rate.

If there's something Northern Ireland are going to need in the years ahead it's a top central midfielder. Steven Davis, Britain's most capped international with 126 appearances as of Wednesday night, is 36 and cannot go on forever. Dallas has proven this season in the Premier League that he can more than plug a gap in the middle.

Allen, along with Manchester United's Ethan Galbraith, will hope to stick his hand in the air as a future successor to Davis.

Alfie McCalmont, an already capped Leeds club mate of Allen's currently out on loan at Oldham and scoring goals for fun from midfield, also has his sights set on the Northern Ireland senior set-up.

Even if they don't get close to the status of a Healy, a Dallas or a Davis, any involvement at all in international football is to be celebrated and cherished forever. Players who play for their country, even for a short time, are remembered. It's a dream and one Leeds fans would revel in, were either Allen or McCalmont to realise it. The pride that resulted in Yorkshire as North Macedonia claimed a shock win over Germany, thanks to Gjanni Alioski's involvement is the pride that accompanies each of Kalvin Phillips' England caps or Dallas' inclusion in Ian Baraclough's side. When players are Leeds, everything they do matters to Whites supporters. And the sight of a Leeds-made footballer on the world stage is a fine thing indeed.

So along with playing a key part in each game Northern Ireland face in the present, Dallas can play a key role in helping to guide the burgeoning, but still delicate careers of a pair who could represent the future for his home nation, the club who gave him a home and the fans with whom he shares a mutual love and appreciation.

You couldn't really ask for a better mentor, either, given the accounts of Dallas' professionalism that regularly come out of Thorp Arch, from the lips of his head coach and fellow players.

He currently shoulders the Leeds link to Northern Ireland, one carried in the past by Wilbur Cush, John McClelland and Healy.

There's plenty of hope across the water that he'll pass it down to at least one other at Elland Road in the years to come, maintaining Northern Ireland's healthy Whites fanbase and giving fans here and there names they can revere.