Returning Rover McPhail hopes more Irish will follow him back across the water
STEPHEN McPhail hopes that his transfer to Shamrock Rovers, allied to Keith Fahey's winter switch to St Patrick's Athletic, will encourage more players based in England to eventually come back to the League of Ireland.
McPhail was in Tallaght yesterday to meet the press after completing his move from Sheffield Wednesday and admitted that it will take him a while to get used to his new team-mates and opponents in the league.
However, the 34-year-old, who watched the Hoops play at the RDS in his youth, would like if other high-profile players came home to finish their careers in Ireland. McPhail and his wife Michelle have relocated to Dublin so their kids can grow up there.
"It might get people thinking, I don't know," said McPhail, when asked if others might follow suit. "I hope so, there's obviously a few coming back. There's Keith and also Colin (Healy) in Cork.
"For me, it was a great option at this time of my career and it's something I'm looking forward to. It's (League of Ireland) a challenge, something I always wanted to do since I was young and, hopefully, a few more will follow."
McPhail says he has received positive messages from pals in England who were aware of Rovers from their European exploits in 2011.
"I watched the Tottenham games and it was massive," he recalled. "They obviously have a great history and they're arguably, for me, the biggest club in the country. Over there (in England) we watched Tottenham and the Juventus game (2010) and it was good. A lot of people are aware of that. Since I've signed, I've got some great messages from people over there who know the club."
Shamrock Rovers boss Trevor Croly is looking forward to working with a player that was once saddled with great expectations. "I remember people talking of him as the next Liam Brady, he played in a fantastic Leeds team – there has not been a Leeds team as good since," said the Hoops boss. "I would know young players who were at Leeds as well who would have spoken of him. He's a cracking player and can give us a good balance."
McPhail could link up in midfield with another ex-Leeds player Robert Bayly, who signed on for a second stint in Tallaght last week. His capture has not been greeted with the same enthusiasm by a large portion of fans who are sceptical of his disciplinary record. Croly has spoken with Bayly and reckons that the 25-year-old is aware that he must knuckle down and take this opportunity.
"Trust me, he knows," said Croly, who is still looking to add to his squad and is checking overseas markets. "It's a bit of a crossroads for Robert. He's a fantastic player, he's come to a massive club and he's not just saying the right things – he's shed a lot of weight and is showing a lot of hunger. He's been excellent in training, he's matured and I think he's going to do well."