Date: 21st May 2006 at 12:43pm
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Paul McShane has already guaranteed himself an entry in the Brighton & Hove Albion history books, despite being a Red Devil, rather than a Seagull. Following in the footsteps of fellow flame-haired Premiership reserve Steve Sidwell, McShane has had a huge influence in Albion’s season. Despite relegation, the centre back, who has drawn comparisons with ex-Manchester United defender and current Birmingham City manager Steve Bruce, romped to both the Official Supporters Club Player of the Season award and fans Player of the Season award. With his commanding displays at the heart of the back-line, McShane has featured on Mark McGhee’s team sheet at every possible opportunity this season, having been a colossus throughout the campaign.

Fans will remember largely McShane for his winning header against arch rivals Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in October, Brighton’s first win over Palace since the eighties. But McShane was on the score sheet on more than one occasion, finishing third on the Albion goalscorer chart behind only ‘Coca Cola Kid’ Colin Kazim-Richards and the now departed Leon Knight. McShane found the net against Cardiff, Burnley and Millwall, with all of his goals coming from set pieces. Clearly, McShane represents an arial threat, similarly to Bruce, who lead United during the nineties.. Admittedly, McShane does have weaknesses to his game, with suspension ruling him out of several key clashes over the season, most notably the home clash against Palace, in which he was clearly missed as the Albion went down 3-2 to a late Jobi Macanuff winner. McShane is not afraid to show his anger when decisions go against him, and with several bookings to his name this season, there is a clear aspect of his game he’ll have to hide if he is to impress Sir Alex Ferguson and make it to the top level.

McShane fancies his chances at Old Trafford, despite the stiff competition he faces. An overshadowed contribution in the Palace match, McShane saved the day with a last gasp tackle, preventing a certain goal. In fact, from the Irishman’s debut against Derby County in August, it was clear the Seagulls had acquired a man with raw talent and leadership qualities, and it is little wonder that McGhee moved to extend McShane’s loan until the end of the season. Such passion in a defender made him the perfect replacement in the heart of the defence for the ruthless Cullip and popular Virgo. McShane has probably earned the sponsors vote as Man of the match in half of Albion’s home matches this season, despite the Seagulls having one of the worst defensive performances in the division over the whole season, an unlikely achievement.

Albion’s final day 5-1 defeat at home to Stoke showed just how much McShane will be missed in League 1 next season, with the defender sidelined following a Hernia operation that had been put off until the end of the campaign. Sadly for The Albion, there is little chance of enough funds being raised to capture the loan signing who has made probably the most impact since the acquisition of Bobby Zamora under Micky Adams. McShane remains under contract and committed to the Old Trafford club. Mark McGhee’s relationship with Ferguson helped bring McShane to the seaside outfit, and it’s going to take more successful deals like this one if the club is going to bounce back to the Championship next season.

To Paul McShane: Thank you, for that 79th minute header at Sellhurst, for countless inspiring displays, and for a season of spirit and commitment that will never be forgotten.

By Mark Potter

 

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