'Chelsea was the best time of my career, you learn so much' - Friends reunited for Pat's midfielder
Conor Clifford says he has no regrets about his long stint at Chelsea, even though it did not lead to a place in the first team squad, as he prepares to face the London club for the first time today.
Clifford (27) is now in his second season with St Patrick's Athletic, the Dubliner a key figure in midfield for the Inchicore club, but the longest stay of his career was at Chelsea, the club he joined from Crumlin United in 2007. But he spent seven years on the books at Stamford Bridge, leaving without a first team appearance to show for it.
Today he will line out against the Blues for Pat's in a glamour friendly, if selected by boss Harry Kenny as he rests key players ahead of next week's tests against Norrkoping and Bohemians.
"I don't know who will play today as Thursday is the priority but I want to play, it would be nice to play against my former club as there are still some of the old faces there and it'd be nice to see them again," he said. "Obviously Frank Lampard was there from my time but there's staff too, Jody Morris, Chris Jones, the physio, I'd know a good few of them, it'll be nice to catch up."
Clifford was rewarded with professional contracts at Chelsea but the first team was too far away. "You learn so much, I learned a lot, on and off the pitch, stuff that helped me later in my career, Chelsea was the best time of my career, training with the best players in the world at the best facility in the world, I loved it."
Ironically, with the transfer ban in place restricting Lampard from making new signings, this is the chance for young Blues to progress, in contrast to Clifford's time there.
Pat's will assess their squad after Thursday's exertions in Europe, a disappointing 2-0 defeat at home to Norrkoping in the Europa league.
"We're gutted," Clifford says. "We could have put up a better show, myself included. Still, they were a class side."