The winger that was almost Watford's - but ex-Cliftonville youngster Eoin Teggart is Portsmouth's gain

Eoin Teggart. Picture: Joe Pepler
Eoin Teggart. Picture: Joe Pepler
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He’s a bright prospect who’s challenging for a second senior appearance at the Kassam Stadium on Tuesday night. 

But it could have been the yellow of Watford rather than the royal blue of Pompey that Eoin Teggart donned.

The winger was close to joining the Hornets from Northern Ireland outfit Cliftonville before a deal fell through.

The Premier League side's loss was the Blues’ gain, though, and Teggart was brought to Fratton Park for an undisclosed fee in the summer 2018. 

He made 20 appearances for Mark Kelly’s academy side last season, scoring two goals.

Teggart’s continued his promising progress this campaign and was rewarded with a first-team debut against Norwich under-21s last month.

Eoin Teggart in action against Norwich under-21s. Picture: Joe Pepler

Eoin Teggart in action against Norwich under-21s. Picture: Joe Pepler

The 17-year-old took his chance and lit up that 3-1 Leasing.com Trophy victory with a scintillating performance down the left wing.

Teggart could again feature for Kenny Jackett’s side when they travel to Oxford in the competition on Tuesday.

But according to Cliftonville's head of academy, Marc Smyth, the Ballynahinch-born ace almost moved to Watford.

He said: ‘Eoin came into our academy when he was around 14.

Pompey Academy chief Mark Kelly. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Pompey Academy chief Mark Kelly. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘He arrived as a striker but he developed into a left-winger.

‘A guy called Paddy McLaughlin recruited him from Glentoran and in his first season he was in and out of the team.

‘But the campaign before he left, he was an under-16 and played under-18s football.

‘Eoin had been at Watford before Portsmouth with a lad called Aidan Steele, who’s now at Crystal Palace.

‘I think Eoin had agreed to join Watford in principle, and there were talks of both of them signing, but the deal fell through.

‘That’s when Portsmouth’s interest came. If I remember rightly, Eoin went over once to train.

‘When the interest came, our chairman dealt with Portsmouth and everything was done quite quickly.

‘We have a good track record of getting kids away.’

It was the raw attributes of Teggart that Smyth believes caught the attraction of Pompey.

Previously only training twice a week, it meant the Northern Ireland youth international was unable to fully understand the game in his homeland.

But it’s the key area Teggart has been able to fine-tune at Fratton Park.

And Smyth feels the youngster has reaped the rewards under the tutelage of Kelly and his academy staff.

The former Ayr United defender added: ‘Eoin was quite shy and I felt that he needed to learn the game. Going away was the natural progression into full-time football.

‘If you were judging Eoin when he came in, he had a good left foot and a good strike.

‘He’s a good athlete, a good size and has got pace. I’d imagine with full-time training he is becoming a better athlete, which is a big part of the game and learning the game more.

‘I think that's indicative of all the kids that come from Ireland to England. 

‘In Ireland, coaches maybe have the kids only two hours a couple of times a week.

‘Their understanding of the game is very limited in terms of phases of play. When they go across the water, it’s because of their attributes and ability then they learn once over there.’

The one quality of Teggart that had Pompey assistant-boss Joe Gallen so excited after the win over the Norwich under-21s is he’s a left-footed winger. 

It’s a ‘gold dust’ characteristic the Blues have long coveted but been unable to unearth. 

And Smyth admits that gives Teggart a significant advantage in his quest to become a regular at Fratton Park in the future.

He added: ‘Being left-footed gives Eoin a massive advantage.

‘The world is crying out for left-footers. Left-wingers – and old-school wingers - are becoming rare.

‘That’s going to give him a massive advantage. He can play on both wings and I actually played him on the right because he could cut in and get shots in.’