Josh Daniels is tipped to make waves across the water by his former Glenavon boss

Josh Daniels is yet to start for Shrewsbury Town – but his former Glenavon manager has little doubt the winger can be a huge hit ‘across the water’.

The 24-year-old, from Derry, built himself a reputation as one of the most exciting players in Northern Ireland football before Sam Ricketts won the race for his signature this summer.

Gary Hamilton, player-manager at Glenavon, has played a significant role in Daniels’ development. He offered the fledgling youngster the opportunity to launch his career after Daniels tragically lost five members of his family – his mother, sister, nephews and their father – in the Buncrana pier tragedy in March 2016.

“We all know about the tragedy that happened in his family at the time,” Hamilton told the Shropshire Star.

“From then I got in contact again and said the best thing for the lad might be to get out, get game time and enjoy playing every week.”

Hamilton, who has been at Glenavon for nine years, had previously played Derry in a friendly where Daniels stuck out ‘like a sore thumb’ as ‘head and shoulders the best player on the pitch’.

Hamilton added: “He’s a good kid. Very, very mentality strong after what he’s been through because a lot would have crumbled.

“He was always first in training, last off the pitch. He just wanted to play football.

“If you look at his Twitter he’s always got a football at his feet, doing tricks. That’s Josh. His ambition was to become a professional footballer and go across the water, and we’ve helped him.”

The 24-year-old is pushing for his first start in blue and amber. He is already the talk of his team-mates in training.

Former Northern Ireland international forward Hamilton revealed that Daniels is much more than a talented trickster who enjoys tormenting full-backs.

“I told the gaffer at Shrewsbury you’ll love his attitude, ability, speed and, believe it or not, for a small lad he’s one of the best in the air I’ve ever seen,” Hamilton said after Shrewsbury paid the release clause set in his contract to move to English football – with sell-ons for a future fee also agreed.

“He’s scary in the air. We always used to hit goal kicks to him because he’d beat most full-backs.

“He works his socks off. The season before last there was a league table from the GPS distances covered in matches for the top 10 Premier League players in England. And in that list Josh would’ve finished fourth. For a part-time player his fitness levels are amazing.

“He’s very direct. He can pick a ball up in his own half and get you 60 yards up out of trouble to give the defence a breather. Most of his goals were worldies. But for me he needed to score more tap ins, being so strong in the air he didn’t get up at the back stick enough.

“I think Josh will get better with the training because he wants to get better.

“If he can get the ability he has going on the pitch he has every potential of becoming a fans’ favourite and going on to bigger and better things.”

Glenavon beat Molde, featuring Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, in the Europa League with Daniels netting the winner. Three players covered 13 kilometres, high-end Premier League distances, to show sports science is growing in Northern Ireland.

Hamilton added: “I know Josh did a test in his medical on the strength in his legs and only one player at Shrewsbury had ever beat him, a goalkeeper.

“We were a wee bit behind five years ago, but not so much now.”

Hamilton helped launch Glenavon’s academy and, since then, six players have moved to English football and three have become full internationals.

Glenavon, having promoted from within, have since thrashed a Bristol City under-23s side 6-3 and Crystal Palace under-18, with their under-20s side, 6-0.

“It’s been a huge success,” he added. “Kids know they get an opportunity and Josh has gone across the water to bigger and better things, which is brilliant.”

Hamilton added: “I’ve actually spoke to the manager about coming over for a pre-season next year. We’ve got lots of young kids who have a chance of going across and going on a level or two. A couple are still maybe a year young.”

Town chief executive Brian Caldwell first touched base with Glenavon before Ricketts began talks with Hamilton. “I think it says it all when all the players are talking about him after training,” Ricketts told Hamilton.

The Glenavon chief continued: "I’m sure the manager will enjoy working with him.

”He’s a lad you take under your wing because he’s such a positive, bubbly lad you want to do well. I think he’ll be a success. They like what they see in terms of attitude, desire and hunger.

I’ve kept in contact with him. I know he’s thoroughly enjoying it. I know the manager has tried him as one of the three midfield as a No.8. He has the potential to do that.

”He was the best defensive winger in this country by a country mile."

Daniels has stepped up from the part-time game to a professional with Salop but Hamilton has no concerns about the attacker's fitness.

Indeed, the manager – whose side play in front of average gates of 1,000 and up to 3,000 for derby fixtures – explained that Daniels always came up trumps on the big occasion.

“He always did well in the big games, against the likes of Crusaders, Linfield," added Hamilton. "I know the best full-back in the league over here and he always said Josh is the hardest player to play against.

”We got a lot of results in those games, Josh performed in them, getting us out of trouble and up the pitch and scored a cracker from 30 yards.

”You always get a 100 per cent shift out of him. He’d never let you down defensively in his work rate."

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