Ricketts on way towards making up for lost time
THIS is no ordinary week for Rohan Ricketts, but then the chirpy Londoner rarely does things the conventional way.
The 28-year-old is on home turf and back in the headlines, with his presence adding further novelty value to Shamrock Rovers' Europa League joust with Tottenham Hotspur.
After being schooled at Arsenal, Ricketts made his name at Spurs. The creative midfielder thrived under the tutelage of Glenn Hoddle, and was tipped for promotion from the England U-21 set-up to the senior ranks. He fell short of those ambitions.
Tomorrow, six years after packing his bags for Wolves, he returns to White Hart Lane in the green and white hoops of the Irish champions. Finding employment in Tallaght is the latest entry on a varied CV, which includes a stint in the MLS with Toronto, miserable unpaid months in Hungary and Moldova, and a brief sojourn in the German fourth tier.
Throw in the extensive media profile that developed from blogging into the creation of his own website, a substantial social networking presence, and the recent release of an e-book (titled 'Passion for Football') aimed at parents of aspiring professional footballers, and there is considerably more to Ricketts than your average "We'll be giving it 100pc" merchant.
In his youth, he wasted the time and money that football offers in abundance. Now, every spare moment is devoted to his brand, or to an entrepreneurial project.
Twenty-five minutes into discussion, he embarks on a lengthy tangent, wondering aloud if a show that pitted professional footballers against each other in the kitchen could take off.
Rovers team-mates Craig Sives and Chris Turner are the planned case study. "Eventually we could have Rooney v Rio," he enthuses. Rio is a mate, by the way.
Ricketts knows he is different. The descent from the Premier League would have sent others on a slippery slope. By making his life accessible, he has maintained a presence.
The move to Rovers at the end of August screamed opportunity: group stage European football, and a dalliance with Spurs. Ricketts could have earned a better wage in League One with Exeter, but the Irish project made sense in the bigger picture. Already there has been a cameo on 'Soccer AM' and a host of English media interviews.
"It's about being smart and doing it now while you're in the position, because, once I'm a retired player, I probably won't be able to get you guys (media) to pick up the phone," he explains.
"Going to Toronto allowed me to grow up. I started reading books and realised just how much free time footballers have on their hands.
"So, I started to write columns that were syndicated worldwide, and it went from there. I said to myself I would create other revenues, things that are going to keep me relevant so I'm always going to be able to earn."
Football wise, his fitness is improving and Rovers fans have seen glimpses of the quality which brought him to the top table in his teens.
He insists that he can get back to the upper echelons and knows a strong display tomorrow will help.
Ricketts is convinced that managers often work on perception, and concedes his wanderlust reduced his value. He recalls leaving Toronto in peak condition, convinced that a Championship club would step in.
"People didn't even want to look at me because I'd played in the MLS," he sighs. "I hadn't even played in Moldova or Hungary then, which kind of makes my CV looks bad."
Is that the only reason for the lack of interest? "I've heard things," he replies. "He doesn't tackle ... I hear this and I ask, 'what does that have to do with anything?' They act like I run on the field and just pull my legs out. Not true." Deep down, he reckons there's more to it.
"I'm a person who speaks my mind," he continues "And sometimes they don't like that. It's not even I'm saying anything bad. I'm just not a robot.
"There's probably a lot of guys who would sit here in this interview and they'd probably be very cliched but I think you guys deserve more than that. And I'm using it to my advantage because I'm letting people know who I really am."
The trip to his old stomping ground is about reminding those who might have forgotten.