Euro 2016: Leeds United winger Stuart Dallas hoping to inspire kids

Northern Ireland winger Stuart Dallas hopes his Euro 2016 experience can act as an inspiration to the next generation of homegrown talent.

Stuart Dallas salutes the fans after Northern Ireland's defeat to Wales. Picture: PA.

Leeds United star Dallas has been rubbing shoulders with the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller and Gareth Bale in France over the past few weeks but it was not so long ago that life looked very different.

In 2012 he was plying his trade with Belfast outfit Crusaders, earning £70 a week, training when he could and holding down permanent employment during the week.

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His first taste of professional football came when Brentford took a chance on him four years ago, and he impressed enough at Griffin Park to earn a move to Leeds and a place in the national set-up.

Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas hugs fans after losing to Wales in Paris. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA.

Like the rest of his team-mates, 25-year-old Dallas was downcast after Saturday’s last-16 defeat by Wales, but he also sees a silver lining.

“Hopefully if I can inspire young lads from back home to believe in themselves and if I’ve shown them anything is possible then that’s great,” he said.

“I was that lad once, not so long ago: happy at home, playing with my mates, working a full-time job and I took the risk of coming over to England.

“There’s a lot of hard work goes into what has happened since but that was the best decision of my life.”

Wales' Ashley Williams (right) and Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas battle in Paris on Saturday. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA.

On Saturday night in Paris, he had new emotions to deal with. “It’s hard to take, the emotions were raw,” he said of the post-match atmosphere.

“The feeling in the dressing room was just disappointment.”

Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas hugs fans after losing to Wales in Paris. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA.
Wales' Ashley Williams (right) and Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas battle in Paris on Saturday. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA.