Craig Roddan Interview To The Club

Finn Park was the place to be for Sligo Rovers fans last Saturday night, but for one bit o’red man watching from the stands it was a bit like Chinese torture.

“I hated it, I was physically kicking the seats. I was kicking every ball. I just wanted so much to be out there.”

The words belong to Craig Roddan, the Rovers midfield dynamo who had to sit out the vital victory because of a two match suspension which also denies him the opportunity to play a part in this Friday’s equally crucial game against Galway United at Eamon Deacy Park.

His sentiments graphically illustrate the commitment of a player who has overcome injury and loss of form to re-emerge as a hugely important part of Gerard Lyttle’s push for premier league survival.

“I was thrilled with the result, of course, and delighted for all the lads who put in such a brilliant performance – but, for me, it’s torture not to be involved. I love all games, but particularly the really important ones. I’d love to have been in there for these games, but I’m sure the lads who get the shirts will give it their all,” Roddan explains.

The personable Liverpudlian, whose life has revolved around football ever since he joined the Wigan School of Excellence as a highly promising 9 years old centre-back, is convinced Rovers can avoid the drop, so much so that he’s already thinking ahead to a more promising campaign next season.

“I don’t want to tempt fate, but I honestly believe we can stay up this year and then push on next season. From the first day I arrived here, this club struck me as being top notch, a club that should always be in the top four or five in the country.

“While this has not been a good season either for the team or myself, I am convinced that we have enough to finish in style, and I really want to play my part in that,” he says.

Honest about his own indifferent form in the early part of the campaign, Roddan explains that a long-term niggling foot injury – plantar fasciitis – restricted his capacity to fulfil the swashbuckling style he brought to the team in his first season, but he feels he is now recovering that form.

He candidly outlines: “I’m not making excuses, but the injury was certainly a factor. Then a new gaffer came in, I lost the club captaincy, and I was out of the team. The crowd were on my back a bit, too, which is never pleasant, but as a professional you have to take all that on board.

“From my point of view, I have tremendous respect for the club and the supporters, who stick by us through thick and thin. I also love that sense of community that surrounds the club. That’s why I was determined to get my head down and get back in the team.

“Thankfully, I think I’ve contributed significantly in recent matches. I like to get involved in games, pressurise opponents, get play going, all that sort of thing. By my own standards, I knew I wasn’t up to scratch earlier in the season, but I played through the injury in some games because I didn’t want to let anyone down. That really didn’t help anyone. Now, I’ve got my confidence back, I’m enjoying the game again, and I feel I’m back to my best.

“Although I’m gutted to be missing this weekend’s game, I will be available for the Bohs match and I can’t wait to get going again.”

An Everton supporter since childhood, the 13 years old Roddan was nonetheless thrilled when Liverpool paid Wigan hefty compensation to take him to the Anfield academy, where over the following five years he played alongside such as Steven Gerrard, Rahem Sterling and John Flanagan, earning an initial two year and then one year professional contracts along the way.

“I loved my time at Liverpool, but really there was never any real prospect of making the breakthrough to the first team. There were too many good players ahead of me in my position. When you consider the massive amounts of money which clubs are now paying for established players, it’s very hard for youngsters to get through. For instance, in today’s circumstances, the famous Man United class of ’92 might not have made it, certainly the likes of Nicky Butt and Phil Neville would struggle to get through today, and they were quality players.

“So I decided after 5 years at Anfield that I really needed to move on to try to get first team games somewhere else. There was no bitterness or anything like that, it’s just the way it worked out,” he recalls.

Brief spells art Accrington Stanley and Carlisle United proved unproductive, and then, by chance, Liverpool reserve team boss, Michael Beals, heard his old mate, Dave Robertson, was recruiting players at Sligo Rovers, and recommended Roddan.

“To be honest, I didn’t know very much about the League, but when I came on trial I was immediately struck by the professionalism of the club. The excellent facilities surprised me and I have to be honest, so did the extent of the fan base. I really felt this was a club worth being part of, and that hasn’t changed. In fact, the longer I’ve been here the more I’ve grown to like it, and I’ve made lots of new friends. Life is good and I’m enjoying it,” he declares.

His mum and dad and grandad have made numerous trips from Merseyside to support the Rovers, and it’s long since been a home from home for the Scouser. So much so, that he has never given any real consideration to returning home.

“Obviously, I wouldn’t rule out a chance to play in England again, but it’s not something I think too much about. I love it here, I’ve got another year on my contract and I’m fully focussed on doing well for Rovers. And wherever my career might take me in the future, there will always be a special place in my heart for Sligo. Theirs will always be the first result I’ll check,” Craig maintains.

Let’s just hope the result he’ll be checking on Friday night will be a good one. In the immortal words of Craig’s fellow Liverpudlians, Lennon& McCartney, “It’s Getting Better”! 

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