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  • Kekuta Manneh wants to win trophies and become a better player in Vancouver but international future remains unclear

    Michael Mccoll

    "Right now, I'm not sure what's going to happen but I'm working to get my passport with the US and we'll see what happens after that," Manneh told AFTN at training on Monday. "I should get it in a year and a half, that's the date it's scheduled for, so that would be good.

    "There's a chance I might play for Gambia as well. You never know, Canada as well because I'm going to be here next year as well hopefully. So there's a chance!"

    I'd put the chance of the latter down to very slim to nil to be perfectly honest. We just threw that question in there to titillate! But have US Soccer or any of the other footballing authorities contacted Manneh about his future at international level?

    "Not yet. They've spoken to my agent. He really didn't give me any details but he told me that they contacted him. He's just letting me focus on my soccer right now and not worry about all that stuff. So I'll just let him do that job. That's what he's paid for!"

    All the talk of Manneh's international future is partly understandable. He is an exciting talent and if he reaches his full potential then he will be one hell of a player. That's still a very big 'if' right now though.

    Manneh has a lot to work on in his game, particularly looking up when he has the ball at his feet for other options than just running at defenders and the defensive awareness that every player needs to have. To his credit, the 19-year-old is well aware of this and has been working hard this season to improve.

    "I'm really lucky and fortunate to have the coaching staff we have here," Manneh told reporters yesterday. "The experienced players we have, all the lads have been helping us. Just taking the advice. [i've] been working on my finishing a lot in practice and it's just paying off.

    "It's not just taking in information, you've got to apply it once you take it. I feel it's been better for us this season, the young players, especially me. We've been given a lot of information this year. It's a little difficult to take them all in, but we've got to take the good ones and let the bad ones go, but I think we made, for me as an individual, the right choices in the advice that they gave me."

    Manneh was underused under Martin Rennie last season and you do have to wonder just how much he actually learned and developed during his first season in the pro ranks.

    At least all the talk about going to play in the Premiership has died down. Such chatter can only be disruptive for a young player and can let them get ahead of themselves. That's something that Carl Robinson will have undoubtedly seen during his long playing career in England and the 'Caps coach and the club don't want to happen to a talent like Manneh.

    "Obviously the 45 minutes he showed on Friday, he was a constant threat throughout the game," Robinson told reporters at training on Monday. "He can be a lot better by the way. My job is to bring him back down to earth because you gentlemen will build him up and you'll build him up maybe to knock him down at some stage as well.

    "I've got to keep his feet on the ground. He's got the world at his feet, he really has, but it's important I don't let him get there before he's ready because if I do then he'll lose his way. And I don't want the kid to lose his way because he's a very special talent. Not just for this group of players but for many years to come."

    Manneh has had more minutes this year, but the expected output hasn't been there. Whether this was due to a stunt in his development last year or the player himself is open to debate. A bit of both is the obvious answer, and a niggling back injury in the preseason that set back his fitness didn't help matters.

    The player and club are at least on the same page when it comes to his future development. He needs to work hard, learn the game, make sure he doesn't become a one-trick pony, and bide his time. Good things come to those who wait - and work hard.

    "We've got to teach him the understanding of the game, we've got to teach him what it's like to be a professional, we've got to teach him what it's like live off the field as well," Robinson said. "It's not as simple as just picking him on a Saturday or a Friday and saying to him 'go out and play'. It's an important part of his development off the field as well as on the field.

    "It's taken time. He's very engaged with it. He wants to learn, he wants to get better, he wants to take things on board. He's a pleasure to work with."

    Manneh's international future may be undecided, but he knows where his immediate club future lies to undertake all this development and that's in Vancouver.

    Talk of moves abroad and to bigger clubs is still very premature. It's a fact that Manneh seems to now be aware of, but he also knows that being at a successful Vancouver Whitecaps side can only put himself in the shop window for a dream move.

    "I definitely want to be on this squad and on this team," Manneh said of being in Vancouver. "I want to score goals for the team and I want to provide for them. I want to win trophies for this team as well. It's a work in progress but there's a chance we can win something this year. We just need to keep doing what we do best and hopefully we can get something this year."


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