Friday 23 February 2018

Roving Ricketts keeps fire of ambition burning bright


ROHAN RICKETTS, man of the match for Shamrock Rovers in their vital win over title rivals Derry City last Thursday, is not your average professional footballer. The expression, "form is temporary, class is permanent", springs to mind when you see him in action.

Then you look at his CV and wonder how such talent left England's Premier League and took in a host of lesser-known clubs in the past 10 years before landing at Tallaght Stadium. He is not short of answers when you pop the question.

"I've met players who don't wander at all," he said, "and they usually end up playing in the Conference. I ventured out because I wasn't being appreciated by my coach at the time -- different managers, different opinions. I just want to be happy, so things change.

"The football market is more difficult now so I went to Hungary and Moldova because I wanted to stay in the system. The Rovers manager said to me, 'if you come and play well you won't be able to stay in this league because you're too good for this league'. I hope to get back to the level I was at."

For other footballers, the lack of security would drive them nuts, but not Ricketts. "It's all a journey," he explained. "If you look at anybody's life, they all have digressions, which are part of a journey. Mine is unique because not many played for Arsenal and Spurs, and then Wolves and Barnsley and in the MLS at 25, and came back and remain relevant. I don't allow outside gratification to determine my location."

He is not short of words, this player who has been a football analyst for ESPN, has his own website and has written an ebook, Passion for Football.

Did his wanderlust display a lack of ambition? "Definitely not. If you had gone down the path I had gone you might have quit because I met some bad people, but I believe I'm still good enough. You never know what's going to happen, so I'm still extremely ambitious."

A classy passer and crosser of the ball, Ricketts lacks a little fitness to do himself full justice, but he is aware of that. "I'm definitely getting there. Against Derry, one of the best teams in the league, in the latter part I felt stronger than in other games."

He never doubted his ability, but adds the rider: "Sometimes I didn't believe in it enough. You look at players like [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Lionel] Messi, Kobe Bryant, and they have this belief that they are great. Footballers like Jermain Defoe, Ledley King and Paul Ince, who used phone me up at night, all talked to me about my talent, but I never believed in it as much as they did.

"Some people think I'm too humble, but now I'm becoming more like a player who knows that 'you're the man, you're the difference-maker. You can provide special passes'. When Cristiano walks on the pitch you can see that, and I have enough talent to be even better than I am. With the work ethic and correct focus that I have now I can be better. I'm hungry and focused."

Ricketts' contract with the Hoops is up in December and, if he isn't offered another contract, he has ambitions to return to the Premier League.

In the meantime, though, he wants to play in Rovers' next two games, against PAOK in the Europa League on Thursday, and against UCD tomorrow week in Belfield when the league title is on the line.

Sunday Indo Sport

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