Northern Ireland rising star Isaac Price grateful to former boss Frank Lampard

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Northern Ireland’s emerging talent Isaac Price has credited ex-Everton boss Frank Lampard with being a “massive” influence on his development and indicated the manager’s Goodison Park exit prompted his own summer move to Standard Liege.

Few Evertonians recall Lampard’s 12-month reign with great affection – they narrowly avoided relegation in May 2022 and then, amid protests against the board, failed to progress before he was sacked in January – but the 20-year-old Price believes he took big strides under the former England midfielder.

“(Lampard) was massive for me,” Price said. “I learnt so much while he was there. I had my debut… at Arsenal (in May 2022) and ever since then I felt like he really taught me a lot of stuff.

“He gave me my debut, he put a bit of trust in me. I was training with the (senior squad) regularly so I was learning a lot of things. Had it gone differently at Everton and he’d had the players he needed to get results maybe I’d still be there.”

Although he did not play any Premier League football in the first half of last season, Price felt ready to step up after the World Cup break. But a few weeks later Lampard was sacked and his replacement Sean Dyche turned to experience in another fight against the drop.

“When the World Cup was on we went to Australia and played two games and I played 90 minutes in both games and I felt like I was one of the best players there,” Price added. “We came back and I was around it, I got half an hour against Brighton, and after that I felt like I was pushed to one side.

“Even though I had the belief in myself that I should be playing or at least coming off the bench I wasn’t really seeing that. As soon as Lampard left and the new manager came in I felt I was just pushed aside and that built up a bit of frustration in me that I wanted to leave.”

That move came when Price joined Belgian club Standard Liege, ending 13 years at Everton. It was a leap on and off the pitch, but Price has the self-assurance to take on the challenge. He is learning the language, admittedly slowly, and said he has quickly settled.

“I feel like it was a bit of belief in myself,” he said of his decision to move. “It’s different living away from home on your own but it’s great. The football is great, the fans are unbelievable, it gives you a bit of confidence every time you go on the pitch so I’m really enjoying it.”

His first goal for the club was the winner in a 2-1 victory over Club Brugge last week, coming on the back of his first Northern Ireland goal in the 4-2 loss to Slovenia last month, his fifth cap.

Slovenia will visit Windsor Park on Tuesday but first come San Marino on Saturday, a match Michael O’Neill’s side need to win to end a five-game losing run and change the mood around a Euro 2024 qualifying campaign which has unravelled since March.

When the qualifying draw was made there was optimism that, having avoided some of the bigger nations and with O’Neill returning, Northern Ireland could challenge in Group H, but a horror run of injuries effectively ended their hopes.

“We just have to put that behind us,” Paddy McNair said. “We have two home games, hopefully six points, and we start to build some momentum.”

Qualification hopes may be over, but Saturday is still a must-win game for Northern Ireland in front of their own fans.

“I agree,” McNair said. “If we don’t beat San Marino it wouldn’t be good at all. It’s a game, especially at home, we expect to win, so I’m looking forward to it.”

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