New St Mirren signing Jake Doyle-Hayes hopes to make a new name for himself in Paisley after fans of his last club dubbed him the Irish Xavi.
The former Aston Villa trainee spent last season with English League Two outfit Cheltenham, where supporters were so taken by his pinpoint passing skills that they likened him to the World Cup-winning former Barcelona and Spain midfielder.
Now the 21-year-old from County Cavan aims to put on a display of his tiki-taka talents when he makes his debut for Jim Goodwin’s team against Dundee United on Friday night.
He said: “If I can play half as good as Xavi did I’ll be doing OK.
“I think the nickname came from the fans at Cheltenham. I didn’t really know about it until a few of my mates said to me that I had been given a new nickname.
“Obviously I was delighted. I suppose there are worse nicknames to be given.
“The way I play, I like to get attacks going, to create a lot of chances for my team-mates and make a few goals here and there.
“I know myself I need to add a few goals to my game so that’s something I really want to improve on. But I’ll give 100 per cent in every game and be aggressive when we don’t have the ball.”
Doyle-Hayes was lured from hometown club Cavan-Monaghan to Birmingham in 2017 by the prospect of working with Ireland icon Roy Keane, who was then Villa’s assistant manager.
He made only three first-team appearances during his three-year West Midlands spell before being released in the summer.
But now having examined the route taken by Villa star John McGinn – who started his career at St Mirren – to the Premier League, he reckons Paisley is the perfect place to relaunch his career.
Doyle-Hayes – who knocked back interest from England and abroad to join Saints – said: “I’ve seen the likes of John McGinn do really well in the Scottish league and thought it would be a good chance for me too.
“I didn’t speak to John about it really but you just have to look at the way his career has gone, he’s done some unbelievable things so far.
“He was someone I looked up to while I was at Aston Villa, especially as he played in my position. Hopefully I can replicate what he’s done.”
Goodwin moved to secure his fellow countryman on a season-long deal after seeing Kyle Magennis poached by Hibs and the Saints boss is convinced he has found the perfect replacement.
He said: “Jake is very comfortable on the ball and technically very good. He has a good energy about him and does have similar aspects to Kyle.
“Obviously Jake won’t want me comparing him to Kyle Magennis, he will want to show people what he’s all about himself and how good he is. I’ve got no doubt that he’s going to supplement the quality we have here.
“We’ve only got him on a short-term deal until the end of the season but I’ve got no doubt come the end of the season he’ll have attracted other interest. Hopefully he will have enjoyed his time here so much we can hang onto him.”
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