Monthly building blocks towards new beginning
Shane Redmond gives Seán Ryan a glimpse of reality in the lower leagues
SHANE REDMOND reckons he came through the crossroads of his career last summer. Released after five years at Nottingham Forest without making the breakthrough, the Republic of Ireland under 21 goalkeeper was at home in Rathcoole wondering where he would be for the 2010-2011 season, and beginning to panic.
There was no interest being shown in his talents, and the more his family asked him if there was any news, the more panicky he became. The possibility of joining the Gardaí was mentioned at one stage.
"Then my agent, Andy Cousins, phoned me on a Monday in July and said 'you need to get to England tomorrow, you're in Scunthorpe first and then Chesterfield'. So I was at Scunthorpe Tuesday, Wednesday, and Chesterfield Thursday, Friday, and played a game for Scunthorpe on the Saturday," recalled Redmond.
"Afterwards, the Scunthorpe manager Nigel Adkins told me Chesterfield were anxious to sign me and wanted to see me in a game. It was a week before the start of the season before they gave me a contract."
Even then, Chesterfield only offered a monthly contract, but such is life at League Two level that Redmond was glad to accept it. Until he signed he was out of pocket for the weeks he spent on trial, although he was fortunate to have friends in Nottingham who looked after his accommodation.
Five years ago, it was all so different as Redmond was head-hunted by a slew of top clubs from Manchester United to Fulham before Forest signed him on the basis of his outstanding performances for the Irish under 15s.
"I had five great years there," he recalled fondly. "I didn't make the first team, but they were great for me. I lost my mother in my second year, which was tough for me, but a lot of people at Forest helped me through that."
Once he was too old for the youth team, Redmond's need for regular football was met by loan spells at a variety of clubs, with non-League side Eastwood his first port of call.
"That was my most enjoyable loan spell, although I was hesitant at first because they were non-league and I'd never heard of them, but there were a few players from Forest there that I knew. We had a great run to the third round of the FA Cup and we were promoted as champions of the Unibond Premier to the Blue Square Conference, which was my first medal as a professional."
Last season brought him his first taste of league action, but also a grim reminder of how lonely a place the goal-line can be when you make a mistake. Burton Albion were making their League debut and wanted to take Redmond on loan from Forest. He did okay in the pre-season and was selected for that historic first game at Shrewsbury.
"It was my league debut as well as Burton's, so it was a big day all round, and I had a nightmare," he admitted. "I started off okay and then one goal went through my legs -- I didn't get down quick enough. Still, that's one of those things, I thought.
"Then it's 2-1 and we're pushing for an equaliser when they get a free kick and I let it through my hands and that killed the game. It was very embarrassing, you want the ground to open up and swallow you. It was too easy a save. I was probably thinking where am I going to throw this ball, and took my eye off it."
Dropped after his August clangers, Redmond had to wait until December for a recall, and then played three games in a week only to break his finger in his last game.
"I didn't get back till the end of January and then Steve Staunton did me a favour and brought me to Darlington, where I had a great end to the season, although it was disappointing for the club as they were relegated."
For a goalkeeper with 21 under 21 caps, it may seem strange that he has to settle for a monthly contract, but when I mention the possibility of a move in the January window, he takes a pragmatic approach.
"Mark Crosby, the goalkeeper coach, has given me an assurance that I'll be at Chesterfield for the season, and I'm working as hard as I can so as to give them no excuse for getting rid of me. At the end of each month they say to me 'you need to go in and sign your contract', and I go in and the secretary has it there
ready for me to sign. The longest contract you get at my age is one year -- unless you're the next big thing -- and Chesterfield say the monthly contract is all they can afford.
"I'm not in a position to say I can go somewhere else. I hope to get in the team and prove how good I am. At present, Tommy Lee, who was released from Manchester United, is there, he has had more experience than me, he's been flying, so I can't complain."
He may be down at present, but Redmond is not short of ambition, although he laces it with a dose of reality. "I would like to think that I could challenge for the senior Irish jersey, but I need to get a club and prove how good I am.
"I believe I'm a very good shot-stopper and kick the ball sweetly, but I need to improve on my timing for crosses. I'm not the finished article or I would be playing in the Premier League."
If he does make the senior team, he will follow in the footsteps of a man he looks up to. "Shay Given is one person who helped me when my mother passed away. I didn't realise that he lost his mother when he was young also, but he brought me up to a game in Newcastle, ironically it was against Manchester City, and had a chat with me before the game. I admire him as a person as well as a goalkeeper."
Although he has had offers from League of Ireland clubs, Redmond is determined to make his future in England, with his monthly contract a down payment on that.
Sunday Indo Sport