Conor Bradley will go into Northern Ireland’s upcoming Nations League fixtures with greater confidence after making an impressive start to his loan spell at Bolton.
The 19-year-old Liverpool prospect has already earned eight caps for his country but feels he is ready to kick on a level after getting his first taste of regular senior football in League One.
Playing in a wing-back role, Bradley has made an instant impact at the University of Bolton Stadium, scoring three goals in 12 appearances in all competitions.
“I feel good this season,” Bradley said. “Obviously it’s been a step up for me playing twice a week.
“It’s been difficult at times but hopefully it’s something that will help me in the long term.
“Definitely I feel more confident. I’ve got a bit of rhythm from playing twice a week. It’s mainly the confidence part. I feel good about myself from playing most of the games with Bolton. I just want to kick on now and put that into a Northern Ireland shirt.”
Bradley got his first Bolton goal in a lop-sided 5-1 EFL Cup success over Salford, and followed it up with league strikes against Morecambe and Charlton, wins which have helped the Wanderers climb to fifth in the table.
“Definitely I’m getting myself into the box more, the timing of the runs into the box and obviously finishing off those chances, which I still want to get better at,” Bradley said when asked which parts of his game have developed most quickly since joining Bolton.
“Also my game management, I’m young, some of the players in England are stronger than me so I’ve been dealing with that and trying to play around that…
“It will hopefully help me with Northern Ireland. (Ian Baraclough) likes to play quite similar to how we do at Bolton with the wing-backs and he wants his wing-backs in the box as well. So hopefully I can add to that.”
Bradley made five senior appearances for Liverpool last term, including a substitute appearance away to AC Milan in the Champions League, and he remains in regular contact with the club about his progress with Bolton.
“It has been massive that they have kept in contact and they still want to know how I am doing and how I am settling in,” he said. “Liverpool have been great that way and I can’t thank them enough.
“It was the right time to make the loan move. I needed to get out and play as many games as I could.
“It is a big learning curve for me but it is a move I had to make and I can’t wait for the rest of the season.”
While his club career is progressing, this week’s task is to help dig Northern Ireland out of the hole they dug for themselves with a dismal run of results in June.
Two draws with Cyprus and defeats at home to Greece and away in Kosovo have left Baraclough’s side battling relegation from Group C in the Nations League, having begun the campaign with talk of promotion.
With Baraclough under pressure from disgruntled sections of the Green And White Army, a result at home to Kosovo on Saturday is imperative before Tuesday’s trip to Athens to face a Greece side top of the standings with four wins from four.
“We were disappointed in June,” Bradley said. “We felt we could have done better. But we are still positive and we have a couple of familiar faces back so we are confident we can get two positive results from these games.”