Shea Charles wants to force his way into Manchester City’s first team after setting down a marker in Northern Ireland’s midfield.
Charles was one of the stand-out performers as he earned his fifth senior cap in Thursday’s 2-0 Euro 2024 qualifying win away to San Marino, earning praise from Michael O’Neill for his assured use of the ball.
But Charles is yet to make his City debut and has only once even made Pep Guardiola’s bench, when he was an unused substitute in the first leg of their Champions League tie away to RB Leipzig in February, a match which finished 1-1 before Erling Haaland scored five in a 7-0 rout back in Manchester.
“At the moment I’m just going to see out the season and we’ll see what happens,” Charles said.
“Hopefully, I’d love to stay at City. That’s obviously the main target, but you never know, so we’ll see.
“It will be difficult (to get into the side), but I’m confident in my own abilities. Training with them, learning from them all the time, it’s just a great experience.”
O’Neill said after Thursday’s match that Charles is “at the best club to learn how to be a footballer” as he works under Guardiola, and the 19-year-old is trying to soak up as much as he can from his illustrious team-mates.
“It’s more with the likes of Fernandinho before he left, Rodri now, Kalvin Phillips as well now, because they play in my position,” he added.
“Watching them, learning, asking questions, that’s the main thing. The reading of the game – game intelligence and a good range of passing is really important.”
Those were precisely the attributes that most impressed O’Neill in San Marino as Charles did a good job of filling some of the biggest shoes in the Northern Ireland side – occupying Steven Davis’ role at the base of midfield.
Charles played a roll in the opener as his namesake Dion Charles got his first international goals, one in either half, to earn the win.
“I really enjoyed it out there,” Shea Charles added. “It’s always good to get a good result, especially away from home. I just hope that we can go on on Sunday (against Finland) and get another good result.
“It was good to see that we could score one of our early chances. It’s kind of expected when you come away from home that some teams will sit back and make it difficult for you to score. Michael said that before the game and said, ‘Just relax, your time will come’.”
As well as the manager, Charles’ performance impressed Craig Cathcart, who captained the side in the absence of both Davis and Jonny Evans.
The Watford defender, 34, praised both Charles and Conor Bradley, the two 19-year-olds who played the full 90 minutes in Serravalle.
“I thought they were brilliant,” Cathcart said. “Shea controlled the game and Conor was getting in behind and putting crosses in. The performance levels from them were top notch. It is great for them to play and to get a win.
“We wanted to go to San Marino and be professional and get the job done knowing we have a difficult game with Finland on Sunday. We are at home, the fans will be right behind us and we will be on the front foot and it is one to look forward to.”