Wednesday 21 August 2019

Unemployed, financial worries and injury heartache - Sean St Ledger admits his time could be up

The last few years have been tough for Sean St Ledger
The last few years have been tough for Sean St Ledger

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Still only 31 years of age, he hasn’t done much running of late.

And Sean St Ledger, who holds the honour of being the only Irishman to score in Euro 2012, is now facing up to the idea that, in terms of football, his race might be run.

As boozy and noisy Christmas parties abound this week across Ireland and Britain, St Ledger is quietly away on his own in Germany, getting assessed by the world-renowned surgeon Dr Hans Müller-Wohlfahrt, in a bid to cure the knee injury which made 2016 a write-off for the defender.

Colorado Rapids had a successful season this year but St Ledger played no part due to injury and, as expected, he was released by the MLS club earlier this month so he’s currently unemployed.

He’s looking at his options and has been taking his coaching badges in Dublin, with a view to getting work when his playing career is over, but the defender capped 37 times by Ireland is facing up to the fact that he might not play again.

“It could all be over for me, I could get back fit but nobody would want to take me. I have to consider that,” St Ledger told The Herald.

“I know there is uncertainty in football. I left Leicester and I had a spell without a club until I signed for Ipswich. I know there are players out there now, who are fit, but don’t have a club.

“I am going to be fighting for a contract but I don’t know how it will go, I haven’t played for a year so it won’t be easy. Beggars can’t be choosers and if I get an offer, I really want to take it and just try to play football again, I won’t have much time left in the game so I want to make the most of it.

10 June 2012; Sean St. Ledger, Republic of Ireland, turns to celebrate after scoring his side's equalising goal after 19 minutes. EURO2012, Group C, Republic of Ireland v Croatia, Municipal Stadium Poznan, Poznan, Poland. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
10 June 2012; Sean St. Ledger, Republic of Ireland, turns to celebrate after scoring his side's equalising goal after 19 minutes. EURO2012, Group C, Republic of Ireland v Croatia, Municipal Stadium Poznan, Poznan, Poland. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

“It will be six to eight weeks before I’d be fit to play, by the time I am fit the season in England will be heading into the business end of things so I don’t know if that’ll happen.

“I’d consider the League of Ireland, I’d consider anything. Having been out for so long, I realise now that it is coming to an end. That’s why I chose to do my UEFA ‘B’ in Dublin, I need to think of life after football. I might not be able to get back from this injury so I need something to fall back on.”

He had surgery on a knee problem last April but he never fully recovered, hence his spell in Germany this seek, his second stint there at the Munich clinic. He goes back for another visit in January to check on his rehab, he also has a trip to Dublin for his coaching course but it’s a lonely life without the financial or logistical support of a club.

“Financially, it’s not easy. It’s a shock to the system and you do worry about money. I am here in Germany but I am paying for it all myself. 

“Yet, if I want to get fit and play again I need to give it my best shot so I will do it. But if this doesn’t work there aren’t many other options.

“It’s lonely as you do your rehab on your own. I can’t really expect my girlfriend to come to the gym with me and start throwing volleys at me! It’s tough and it’s lonely but if I want to play football again, this is what I have to do.”

His English DJ girlfriend Helen Stelling Holt has been a support, St Ledger aware of how so many ex-pros end up bankrupted by divorce when their career is over. “I met my girlfriend when I didn’t have a club so she’s not with me for the money,” he jokes.

Last capped three years ago, in Martin O’Neill’s second game, he’s looking forward. “You only miss football when you are out of it. When I was at Colorado, but injured, I was still in the dressing room every day, but then the buzz you get from playing on a Saturday was missing,” he says.

“The thing for me now, having not played in so long, is to look at what I will do after football.”

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