PAUL Smyth has earned the praise of international team-mate Johnny Evans while at a training camp with Northern Ireland.
Smyth joined QPR last summer and burst onto the first-team scene in spectacular fashion in January by scoring the winning goal on his debut against promotion-bound Cardiff City.
Full international recognition soon followed, with the 20 year-old also netting on his debut for the green and white army against South Korea.
Experienced defender Evans, who has more than 200 Premier League appearances to his name, told the Belfast Telegraph ahead of Northern Ireland's friendly fixture with Panama on Wednesday: “I remember Paul Smyth coming to train with us at the Euros. He wasn't in the squad, just there to train with us, and I thought his training was outstanding.
“I'd just gone into the left-back spot and we were warming up to play against Ukraine and we were doing a bit of team shape. I was playing left-back that night against Ukraine.
“Paul was on the right wing and I hadn't really seen much of him at that point. He had the ball, I went to close him down, he's put the ball past me down the line and he has just taken off. He caught me by surprise and I was like, ‘Who is this kid?’
“I'll never forget that moment - I thought, ‘This boy has something’.
“He has that pace off the mark because he is so light. He was jinking around, but after that I made sure it never happened again!”
Evans also praised Smyth for making the move from Linfield to Loftus Road, adding: “People were probably thinking, ‘Is it a good move, is it not?’
“They are a Championship team, he's coming from the Irish League and the big question is, can he adapt? Is he ready? It maybe took him a couple of months to adapt but fair play to him, he's absolutely flying. I always check the QPR team every week to see if he is starting or on the bench.
“It's great that he has had an impact there, he's a great kid, brilliant attitude and I'm so pleased for him. Hopefully he can have a big influence on us for years to come.”
Evans also believes the impact youngsters such as Smyth can have on older players in a squad cannot be over-stated, explaining: “Paul Smyth coming in and scoring the winner last time out against Korea, I couldn't stop thinking about it for weeks.
“That's what sometimes happens when young lads come in. People underestimate the effect young players have on the squad, especially on senior players. It gives you a lift and they challenge senior players.”