The inside track on star leaving Crystal Palace for Motherwell transfer as he holds international potential

New Motherwell signing Kofi BalmerNew Motherwell signing Kofi Balmer
New Motherwell signing Kofi Balmer | Getty Images
The defender has completed a transfer from Crystal Palace to Motherwell.

He’s an experienced star with room to grow- and Motherwell have landed a player in Kofi Balmer with international potential according to his ex-boss.

The defender has signed a two-year deal with the option of a third after leaving Crystal Palace. He spent last season out on loan at Port Vale and AFC Wimbledon, having moved to Selhurst Park in 2022 from Larne.

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A Northern Irish youth international, he made the move from boyhood club Ballymena United to Larne in 2021 after debuting at 16. That was his first move into full-time football and a year later he was in the Premier League.

Tiernan Lynch was the man who managed him at Larne, and he believes Balmer’s senior experience for his age is a huge selling point. Ironing out mistakes is a usual task when it comes to youngsters but it’s not something the Inver Park boss had to do too much with Motherwell’s new recruit.

He told the Motherwell Times: “I have been aware of Kofi for a long time. He became a young man very quickly. He broke into the Ballymena first-team and the lad never looked back. We got him at about 19 and he already had about 140 senior games under his belt.

“It was a no-brainer for us that Kofi was always going to get that opportunity to go across, whether that be England, Scotland or elsewhere. Thankfully he came into us for that year and did really well. The best teacher of the game is actually the game. You learn and pick up as you go along and play. As much as you try to coach to make them better, it’s the games that make the difference.

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“So by the time we had Kofi, and 140 games or whatever it was, there was no risk in him. He’d learned a huge amount from the games before and there are very few 19-year-olds or 20-year-olds you bring into your team you don’t have a huge amount of work to do on.

“He’s at that stage where he is an established player now. He’s big, strong, physical, he has a side to him that he is prepared to mix it. But he’s also a good player who will play through the thirds, get on the ball and be brave. There’s an element of an all-round game to him.”

When Palace came calling, Lynch had some reservations. Whether or not moving back into the development arena was the right move for Balmer is something the Larne boss pondered, as he reckons a move to a club like Motherwell in the Premiership instead of Crystal Palace would perhaps have been a better springboard.

He explained: “I’ll be honest and say when the first Palace interest came in, it wasn’t to go in to the first-team and play. I was a little sceptical of whether it made sense to go back to playing development football after the amount of games he’d played in senior football.

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“In hindsight, if Kofi had gone from Larne to Motherwell, I think he would be further on than what he is today. The development bit in-between was probably something he could have bypassed. The big thing with Kofi at the time - and there was a huge positive in him going to Crystal Palace - in the sense it was a Premier League club with facilities and top coaches.

“He was still learning the game and that gave him an opportunity without the pressure of senior football. It was kind of a double-edged sword for him. It gave him time to develop as a player, technically develop. He’d only had one year full-time with us so there were elements of benefit for him going.”

Stars like Brodie Spencer and Sean Goss have made inroads into the Northern Ireland squad while at Fir Park in recent times. Lynch reckons that’s not something out of reach for Balmer if he impresses in claret and amber, with Motherwell boss Stuart Kettlewell’s favoured three at the back formation seen as a huge plus.

He added: “I think that will make a massive difference to him. I think as a right-sided centre-back of a three, you probably get the best of Kofi. That’s where he played for us. I think that will make a huge difference to his development and settling in period.

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“He’s comfortable in wide areas and in possession. He’s comfortable 1v1 and I do think Kofi has the ability to play at that level. The big thing now is to go and feel wanted, loved, get games under his belt and stay injury free. I think he will kick on. I think it’s a good opportunity to try and establish himself in the national team if he can go in there and prove his worth.”

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