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Brentford 2 v 0 Swansea City
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 29th May 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Ryan is ready to man up this Saturday at Wembley
Friday, 28th May 2021 12:21

Ryan Manning's Premier League dream with Queens Park Rangers was a case of so near, but yet so far and earlier this season he was forced to sit in the Wembley stands with the Republic of Ireland. The Irish Examiner examines Ryan who examines his teams chances at Wembley.

This weekend, the Swansea City defender will take to the field at the home of English football with he and his team just 90 minutes away from reaching the top-flight. Saturday’s Championship play-off final — known as the richest one-off game in the sport worth more than £130m to the winning side — will see Swansea take on Brentford. It is a repeat of last season’s play-off semi-final won convincingly by Brentford who then lost in the final to Fulham. Manning is confident of a different outcome this time.

“I didn’t play for QPR in the Premier League,” said Manning, who had five years in London. “I joined in January 2015 and they were relegated in the May so it was only four months. I was involved in the matchday day squad against Tottenham, but didn’t even get on the bench. It was close, but not close enough! “It would be a different situation for me this time around if we make it to the Premier League as I’m a lot older and more experienced now compared to the 18-year-old then who had just moved to London! Hopefully I can be thinking about it soon. “A lot of the boys in the Swansea squad are probably in the same boat as me. “They’re experienced Championship players and now it’s about trying to get to the next level and reach the Premier League. That’s something every player wants to tick off. Everyone here is itching to try and get over the line. It would be an unbelievable way to finish this season.

Galway-born left-back Manning, 24, only joined Swansea last October. He has made 20 appearances for Steve Cooper’s impressive side this season. Manning hopes this weekend's Wembley trip will be better than his last visit there which came on international duty in November. “I was there when Ireland played England, but I hadn’t got my Covid results in time so I couldn’t play and just had to sit in the stands isolated from everyone else,” Manning said. “We’re 90 minutes from the promised land. Everyone is on a high after two good performances in the semi-finals on the back of a really positive season. Keeping the amount of clean sheets we have and improving on the previous year has been great. To have gone one step further and got to Wembley means everyone wants to make a good day of it and finish it off.

“To be competing at the right end of the table is exactly where I wanted to be. It’s the first time in my career I’ve been competing for the play-offs. It’s been really good for me to be involved in some big games. The atmosphere for the semi-finals was unbelievable and the nerves and experiences that went with it were great for me to learn from. I’ve really enjoyed my first season down here. Every kid that puts on a football shirt dreams of playing in the Premier League. Coming from Galway and Ireland it’s a long way off when you’re a young boy there, but I’ve come over to England and tried to get myself into a position where I can do it. Now I’m 90 minutes away. To be in this position where I’m that close is a good personal achievement and hopefully the result is a celebration at the weekend and I can say I’ve reached the Premier League. All my focus is on Saturday and getting a good result.”

A product of Mervue United and Galway United, Manning joined Swansea in a cut-price deal and although he has spent large periods of the season on the bench, it has proved a wise move. “If you don’t have self-belief when you’ve come through a season where you’ve competed at the top end for all of it, then there must be something wrong,” said Manning. “We’ve definitely got the confidence in the group that we can do it. From a neutral’s perspective it’s probably teed up to be an entertaining game. Brentford were there last season so they’re looking to make it a better day at Wembley. Our boys who were here last year were beaten by them in the semi-finals so there is definitely a lot on the game. “But whoever we were playing, it would always have been a massive game. It’s a straight shootout to reach the Premier League. I don’t think the stakes could be much higher, but we’re confident in our group and the game plan. We’re looking forward to the big day out.”

Swansea’s bid for glory will be helped by Manning’s Ireland team-mate Conor Hourihane who, remarkably, will be making his seventh trip to Wembley this weekend. “This game is going to be Conor’s third play-off final,” said Manning, who will link up with Hourihane again with Ireland this summer after going to Wembley. “That speaks for itself in terms of him as a player and what he brings to a team. When he came in January his impact was almost instant and he had three or four goals almost straight away. “You can tell his quality and he’s added a new dynamic to the group with his experience and goal scoring from midfield. His experience of playing in play-off finals will be invaluable. We can pick his brains about what it’s going to be like. He won’t be phased by the occasion because he’s been there and done it. We’re all delighted he’s here.”

Manning has come through the Ireland junior ranks and made his full senior debut against Bulgaria in November. Despite the team’s struggles, he has impressed manager Stephen Kenny. He hopes to add to his caps against Andorra and Hungary in the weeks to come, but if Swansea win this weekend, he is unlikely to be involved in the first of those two games. “It’s a nice problem to have at the end of the season — a play-off final and then international duty,” said Manning. “A goal of mine was to break into the Irish set-up and be able to play for my country. This has been a breakthrough season and I’m delighted with that. I want to build on that and get as many caps as possible.

If I’m in the Premier League that will help my international ambitions.

Photographs licensed from Reuters

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