Richie Barker believes Conor Clifford’s loan spell at Crawley could prove a pivotal point in his career.
The 21-year-old Chelsea midfielder joined the Reds for a month ahead of Thursday’s loan window deadline.
Although Clifford has been in the full Republic of Ireland squad this season, he has yet to make a first team appearance after five years at Chelsea.
Crawley is the fifth different club Clifford has joined on loan and he will compete with Josh Simpson, Hope Akpan and Dannie Bulman for a midfield berth at Crawley.
Reds boss Barker said: “One of the reasons he chose to come was he is at an age where at some point he needs to recognise whether his future is at Chelsea or elsewhere.
“His contract is up at the end of the season. The next six or seven weeks will go a long way to deciding where his future lies.”
Clifford, who is eligible to play in next Saturday’s FA Cup tie against Chelmsford, joins fellow Irishmen Mark Connolly and Billy Clarke at Crawley and has revealed he took advice from Connolly – who he has played alongside in Republic of Ireland age group sides – before agreeing a move to the Broadfield Stadium.
He said: “I know Mark as I’ve played with him as part of the Republic of Ireland set-up in the under-21s.
“I’ve played with him a few times and I know Billy Clarke as well from the national side.
“I spoke to Mark on Wednesday when I heard about Crawley’s interest and he couldn’t speak more highly of the club and the gaffer.”