Wednesday 17 January 2018

Stevens bags Villa switch as Rovers add experience

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

THE internal League of Ireland transfer window closed a month ago but Shamrock Rovers were operating in a different sphere yesterday, bringing in two experienced free agents from across the water and confirming the lucrative sale of Enda Stevens to Aston Villa.

Stevens, a highly rated Irish U-21 international, moves to Aston Villa for an initial £250,000 with the Hoops set to earn more if the left-back breaks into the first team.

As expected, the deal has been delayed until January, with Stevens keen to be part of Rovers' Europa League experience. The Dubliner is also targeting a second successive league medal. He is delighted with how everything has panned out.

"I would like to thank Alex McLeish for placing such faith in me," said the ex-St Pat's man. "I have really enjoyed my time at Shamrock Rovers, and with Europa League football, along with the run-in to the league campaign still ahead, I can't wait to be part of that before I leave.

"I want to thank the board for everything they have done for me, and the manager, Michael O'Neill, who has been a huge influence on my progress as a player."

O'Neill hailed Stevens' departure, stressing that it was recognition of the club's overall progress. "Enda deserves great credit for how he has improved his game and placed himself in a position that one of England's biggest clubs wanted to recruit him."

The Shamrock Rovers boss was busy supplementing his squad for the gruelling schedule of fixtures that lies ahead.

Capturing midfielder Rohan Ricketts on a free transfer propelled a Hoops transfer story into the weird and wonderful world of Sky Sports News on deadline day. Ricketts (28) started at Arsenal before making 30 appearances in three years at Spurs. He was highly regarded at White Hart Lane when Glenn Hoddle was in charge, but subsequently fell out of favour.

After spells with Wolves and Barnsley came to nothing, he developed a wanderlust in search of work and spent time with Toronto FC and then clubs in Hungary, Moldova and Germany. He has also developed a media profile, blogging extensively on his experiences at Spurs, before launching his own online magazine, 'Column 10'.

Ricketts announced the identity of his new employers to his 20,000+ Twitter followers and admitted that the prospect of two meetings with Spurs was a huge attraction.

O'Neill also added 31-year-old Scot Jim Paterson, a left-sided performer who can operate in defence or midfield. Paterson has played over 300 games at SPL and Championship level with Dundee United, Motherwell and Plymouth.

"Jim will add great experience," said O'Neill. "Rohan is a very exciting option and can add a little bit extra in the final third."

Meanwhile, a site inspector from UEFA visited Tallaght with a view to ratifying the venue as the stage for the Europa League encounters. Rovers believe they have a strong chance of getting their wish.

Irish Independent

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