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where are they now?


(Former Chelsea footballer)

CHELSEA play Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final this afternoon, but John Coady won't be fussed if his former team loses. "I don't retain a soft spot for them," he says. "I never liked them. As a schoolboy, I followed Liverpool, but since my experience at Chelsea I've been turned off English professional football. It was a fairly eye-opening experience, and I was delighted to get out of there and come home."

A product of Mick Flaherty's Leicester Celtic, and street football in Rathmines, Coady was working in An Post in Sheriff Street, and playing for YMCA in Sandymount, when a friend who was a Shamrock Rovers fan approached Hoops' reserve team manager Noel Campbell about Coady and a trial was arranged.

"I was about 21, a late bloomer and very lucky -- I arrived at the right time. Rovers weren't fantastic and (John) Giles was prepared to give an unknown a chance. He put me in as a striker against UCD in a 2-2 draw, and I scored both of them."

The following season, Rovers had a new manager, but Coady had no word and went to see his friend, who phoned the club and put him on to Jim McLaughlin, who said: "My God, we've been looking everywhere for you."

"That put me at my ease," recalls Coady, who explains the lack of contact was because "not everyone had a home phone in those days." He enjoyed three highly successful seasons with the Hoops before his move to Chelsea in December 1986.

"I played against Hungary in an Olympic qualifier and a week or so later, Dermot Keely, who was then the manager, called and said there was an offer from Chelsea, so I agreed terms and off I went. It was with huge hesitation because Rovers were very successful and they were my team, and I was living at home with my mother and brother and I was the wage earner. But it was something I wanted to do and when the opportunity came I decided to have a look.

"It wasn't so endearing. It was real dog eat dog. It was great to play in the First Division, but when you weren't in the team you were hoping someone gets an injury to get back in the team. I played about 20 games over two seasons. My contract was for three seasons and they sold me to Derry City after two."

Coady, who had taken a career break from An Post, resumed his work as a postman. Nowadays, he can be seen at every Rovers game as he is a season ticket holder. "It's hard to get away from your first love," he says.

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