Monday, 12 December 2011

Kevin Moran

No hablo Espanol

1988 - 1989 : Sporting Gijón (Spain)

Kevin Bernard Moran was a talented sports-man, and played at the top level in two codes. First, in Gaelic Football, in which he played for Dublin GAA, winning three Leinster titles and two All-Ireland medals. He was a GAA 1976 All-Star member and arguably one of the most promising footballers in the mid-1970s.

He choose however, to choose the potentially more lucrative career by switching to soccer and signing for Manchester United  in 1978 at the age of 21. Moran would go on to play over 230 games for the Red Devils and become a key member of their FA Cup winning sides of 1983 and 1985. He would represent Ireland 71 times and feature prominently for them at Euro 1988, World Cup 1990 and World Cup 1994. Indeed, Kevin Moran is one of the best Irish players of the past 30 years.

In 1986, Manchester United hired Alex Ferguson as their new manager. This heralded the beginning of major changes at Old Trafford, not least the signing of Steve Bruce a year later. Bruce's arrival in Manchester spelled the end of Moran's time there, and he left United shortly after the European Championships in 1988. 

He signed for Spanish side Sporting Gijón, becoming part of a strong defence at El Molinón, featuring Spanish internationals Abelardo and Manuel Jiménez. His first match was an impressive 4-1 away win over Athletic Bilbao. That year he played a total of 27 games for the club, but his performances often came under criticismGijón finished the season in 13th place, four places lower than the year before. During the season Moran shared a flat with future Real Madrid, Barcelona and Spain star Luis Enrique.

The next year, Moran played just 6 games with Gijón. A poor start to the season saw them loose two of their first three matches, and they picked up just one point in over a month. New coach Carlos Garcia Cuervo began to favour 19 year old Abelardo at the back, and Moran was consigned to the bench. Anyway, Moran wasn't settled and didn't enjoy a very close relationship with his comrades. In one December 1988 incident, Moran was the only player who did not participate in Manuel Jiminez's annual cub charity lottery, seemingly because he wasn't interested. 

In October, Moran moved to Second Division English outfit Blackburn Rovers, who so far had endured a 27 year absence from top-flight football. Moran, already 34, was regarded as having the sort of experience that might help Blackburn finally reach the top-flight again. His first season was disappointing though, and they finished 19th. However, the next year they were promoted and finished the next two seasons in the top three. Moran retired at the end of the 1993-94 season, aged 38. The very next season, Blackburn would win the Premier League.

Today, Moran is occasionally seen on television, working as a pundit for TV3 Sport. He also runs his own sports agency, and counts Steve Finnan, Wayne Rooney and John O'Shea as his clients. Kevin Moran was one of the best Irish players, perhaps of all time. But in Spain, he is remembered as yet another British-Irish player who just couldn't settle. He has been criticised for not trying hard enough to adapt to life in Spain, not learning Spanish and barely interacting with his team-mates. Perhaps this should serve as a warning to any Irish players considering a move abroad. Playing football is not enough, if you want to be a success, if you want to win things, then, like Liam Brady and Mickey Walsh, you have to learn the lingo. 

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Ian Harte

El Toro Irlandés

2004 - 2007 : Levante UD (Spain)

In 2004, newly promoted Levante of Spain's La Liga, signed Irish international Ian Harte. The left-back would be the first Irish player to grace Spain since John Aldridge and Ashley Grimes left the country in 1991. Although spending two happy years in Spain, Harte would be back in England by 2007 after he lost his place in the Levante team. Once regarded as one of the finest Irish players of his generation, Harte's failure in Spain would end his reputation as a top-class footballer and condemn him to the lower leagues for the rest of his career.

Born in Drogheda, Harte signed for English outfit Leeds United in 1996, joining his uncle, right-back Gary Kelly at the club. Over the next 8 years he would become a staple part of the Leeds side, as the club became one of the biggest in England in the late 1990s and early 2000s, reaching some marvellous European milestones along the way. The distinctly Irish Leeds team, managed by David O'Leary from 1998 and featuring among others Alan Maybury and Robbie Keane, reached the UEFA Cup semi-finals in 2000 and the Champions League semi-finals the next year. Harte was an important member of this team, scoring memorable goals against Arsenal and Deportivo la Coruna. Throughout his Leeds career, and in particular during their amazing Champions' League run in 2000-01, Harte had been consistently linked with moves to Europe's biggest clubs. Indeed, by 2002, Harte was regarded as one of the best defenders in Europe.

He made his Ireland debut in 1996 at the age of 19 and would cement his place in the side after the retirement of Denis Irwin. He played in the 2002 World Cup and gained 64 caps in total, scoring 11 goals for his country. Following Leeds United's financial meltdown in the summer of 2004, Harte finally made his long awaited move to the continent, to sunny Valencia. Unfortunately, it wasn't the city's main club who signed him, but rather the relatively obscure Levante. 

Levante UD were founded in 1909 by a perfume company and took their name from a famous beach close to the city. Rivals Valencia would not be founded for another ten years, and during that time Levante would pioneer football in the city and the region. The club's trophy cabinet isn't well stocked, but they did win the Copa de la Espana Libre in 1937. By the time Harte arrived, Levante had only recently been promoted to the La Liga, making their appearance in Spain's top flight for the first time in 41 years. 

"I am joining an ambitious club and I want to make my mark and remain here for several years," said Harte soon after signing. He cut a popular figure in his maiden season at the Ciutat de Valencia, scoring the club's first top-flight goal in four decades, and was nick-named the Irish Bull. He played well in his first six months and by November they were lying in 3rd place. January 2005 would see him suffer a serious groin injury however, and he remained on the injury table for most of the season's remainder. His absence appeared to affect Levante badly, and the club had slid down to the relegation zone by May. Returning at the season's end, Harte's experience wasn't enough to save the club from relegation, after a last day defeat against Villarreal. 

Harte scores Levante's first top-flight goal since 1965

In his second season, Levante were playing in the Segunda Division. Harte had a fine season though, and was the club's first choice left-back for the whole year. He managed nine goals in all competitions, mainly from direct free-kicks. Levante finished in 3rd place and were promoted back to La Liga in their first attempt. 

Harte scores a free-kick against Xerex

His third season at the club, would be an unhappy one, as Harte suffered an injury in August which kept him out for five months. In spite of the club's fairly poor performance all season, Harte was still unable to regain his place in the first team. Levante finished in 15th and avoided relegation, but Harte's time with the club had clearly come to and end. His last game for Levante was against the same as his first, Real Sociedad, seeing a 0-1 defeat. In the summer, he left Levante by mutual consent. Harte's time in Spain had come to an end, after making over 60 appearances for the Frogs, and scoring 10 goals. 

He was signed by Roy Keane's Sunderland in 2007 but failed to settle, and the following season he began his exile in lower leagues first with Blackpool and then Carlisle, before signing for Reading in the NPower Championship. He is as of May 2013 unattached. Harte's Ireland career appears to have ended after being consistently overlooked by Giovanni Trapattoni, and his most recent outburst against the Italian makes a recall even more unlikely.

Harte's prospects in Spain took a knock after his injuries ruined his third season at Levante, had they not, he might have seen bigger success in Valencia, and perhaps even bagged a move to a bigger club in Iberia. Potential moves to AC Milan and Barcelona back in 2001 add to the notion that Ian Harte's career could well have been far more notorious.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Eric Barber

A League of Ireland Idol

1967 - 1969 : Chicago/Kansas City Spurs (USA)
1970 - 1972 : Wiener Sport-Club (Austria)
1980 :  Al-Ittihad (Saudi Arabia)

Barber was born on 18 January 1942 in Dublin. A natural striker he began his career with local club Shelbourne. While at the club, he earned 2 caps for the Republic of Ireland in a 1966 World Cup Qualifier with Spain and a friendly against Belgium. He played the full 90 minutes in both games, but failed to find the net in either and would not be called up to the Ireland squad again. Domestically though, he would win the League of Ireland once and two Cup medals with Shels.

He moved briefly to English football with Birmingham in the mid-1960s playing just a handful of games before being convinced by his agent Gibby McKenzie  to play in the North American Soccer League with the Chicago CIty Spurs. His time in America was productive and successful. Barber would bag 25 goals in 44 games with the Spurs. After a year, the franchise moved from Chicago to Kansas, and Barber followed with them. He captained his side against Santos in 1968 and was named in the NASL All-Star team alongside legends like Vavá and Enrique Mateos. In 1969, he led the Spurs to the NASL championship. 

In spite of its on-field success, like many NASL franchises, his team would face financial trouble. Uprooting from Chicago to Kansas had not reaped the rewards hoped for, and Barber himself was feeling home-sick. For the remainder of the 1969-70 season, he would play on loan at Shamrock Rovers and scored both goals in their memorable 2-1 win over Germany's Schalke 04.

Barber lining up against Santos' Pele

After his official release from Kansas, he was signed by Austrian outfit Wiener Sport-Club (WSC) playing in the Austrian Football Championship, the predecessor of today's Austrian Bundesliga, alongside famous clubs such as Rapid Vienna, Sturm Graz and Salzburg. WSC are Austria's oldest club, having been founded in 1883, and have spent 77 of the past 101 seasons in the Austrian top-flight. They are three time Austrian Champions, last winning the league in 1959, and play their home matches at the 8,700 capacity Sport-Club Platz.

In the 1969-70 season, WSC had finished as runners-up, thus qualifying for the following season's Inter-City Fairs Cup (UEFA Cup). Barber was the first Irishman to ever play in Austria and his first season with the Viennese club started brightly, as he found the net 8 times in the first half of the campaign. But ultimately, WSC failed to make gains on their impressive finish the previous year, and they came tenth. The Fairs Cup campaign didn't go well either; they were thrashed in the First Round against K.S.K. Beveren of Belgium 0-5 on aggregate.

Eric Barber, centre, challenges for the ball

Barber though, had failed to settle, and by mid-season he was dropped, despite his tally of goals. He spent the rest of the season, and most of 1971 in the reserves. In January 1972, he was rescued by his old team Shelbourne, who would pay (a then massive) fee of 1,000 pounds for his services. "My heart was with Shels, they are my club", he would later declare.

Back in Dublin, Barber would never win any more trophies, and his basic wages would have been much less than what he was earning in America and Austria. But he did manage to score a huge amount of goals with Shels, and is currently the 11th all-time top goalscorer in the league's history. He finished his career at Shelbourne, and would briefly go on to manage the club. In 1980 he retired, remaining a legend at the club to this day. He scored over 150 goals in 250 games for Shelbourne.

He coached briefly with Al-Ittihad in Saudi Arabia. In spite of earning the then massive salary of 3,000 pounds a week, the culture-shock was too much for him. "I would walk down the street to buy a paper and there would be some poor lad getting his head cut off". He left Jeddah, and returned to Ireland to run a clothing business.

Eric is a League of Ireland legend, and rightly so. His record at that level was phenomenal, and its a pity he couldn't bring it with him to Austria, or sweat it out in the United States. He is a perfect example of a very talented Irish footballer, whose inability to settle abroad, caused him to fail outside of Ireland. One wonders if he could have achieved so much more.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Jim Donnelly

The Kadıköy King

1929 - 1931 : Građanski Zagreb (Yugoslavia)
1933 - 1935 : Güneş (Turkey) 
1935 - 1938 : Fenerbahçe (Turkey)
1936 - 1937 : Turkey

James Elliot Donnelly is not very well known either in Ireland or around Europe. Yet, he ranks among our finest Managerial talents in the history of the European game. His career as a player would take him from Blackburn Rovers in England, to Güneş in Turkey. As a Manager, he would coach at the highest level, both in Turkey, and internationally at the Olympics. He won league titles and managed some of the finest players in Eastern Europe in his time. Yet, Donnelly is a lost legend. 

He was born in County Mayo on 18 December 1899. In World War I, he would serve with the Royal Artillery in France, playing football with his regiment. After the war, he was signed by Blackburn Rovers as a full-back and his career would continue to Accrington Stanley, Southend and Brentford between 1920 and 1929. In 1929, after being released by Brentford, Donnelly was signed by Yugoslav outfit Građanski Zagreb, a predecessor of the modern day DInamo Zagreb. Građanski were the champions of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia but had just lost their Hungarian coach Jesza Poszony, so they hired Donnelly as player-manager.

Donnelly, far right, with Građanski in 1930

Although Građanski were the league champions when Donnelly took over, they were a club in trouble. Financial problems that had begun in 1924 were beginning to hamper their business, and Građanski lost most of their key players before Donnelly had arrived. His first season was one of the most notorious in Yugoslavia's history, as strained relations between Zagreb and Belgrade meant that games and meetings were often marred by intense clashes. This centred on the rivalry between the Croatian teams, Hajduk Split and Građanski on one side, and the Serbian teams, BSK Beograd and SK Jugoslavija on the other. BSK finished the season as Champions, but because they had fielded an unregistered player, lost their crown to Hajduk following an FA meeting. The fact that the Yugoslav FA was based in Zagreb led many Serbs to suspect foul-play, and subsequent meetings to settle the dispute never proceeded well.

For Donnelly, the season was a disaster. Građanski lost in the Cup final, finished last in the League and were relegated to the Zagreb Municipal League. They bounced back though, achieving promotion in 1930 and coming 3rd in the 1931 Yugoslav First League. This was not enough for Donnelly to keep his job however, as his strict use of the Schweizer Riegel (a Swiss style of play noted for being dull and highly defensive) had driven away many supporters. A change in the League system also affected Građanski's finances badly, and assisted in his sacking in 1931.

He returned to England to play for a new league club, Thames in the 1932-33 season, before returning East to end his playing career with Turkish side Güneş in 1933. Güneş played in the Istanbul Second division, then regarded as the de facto second tier of Turkish football. He retired in 1935, and would then pursue a colourful and successful career in coaching.

In January 1935, he was offered the job at Turkish giants Fenerbahçe. In his first season in charge at Kadıköy, he guided them to the 1934-35 Istanbul League title. The same year, Patrick O'Connell guided Real Betis to the La Liga title in Spain. Football in Turkey in the mid-1930s was mainly centred around Istanbul, and Donnelly's team can therefore be considered as Turkish champions.

Donnelly's Fenerbahçe side before beating Galatasaray 15 March 1935

The 1935-36 season would see Donnelly's Fenerbahçe win the newly formed National Championship. The season included a memorable 6-1 win over fierce rivals Galatasaray on February 23. Fenerbahçe would finish the season as Champions, on 65 points, 9 ahead of Galatasaray. 

Donnelly's Fenerbahçe players in 1937, celebrating a treble of titles

In 1936, while still Manager of Fenerbahçe, Donnelly was selected as Manager of the Turkish National side. Managers in the 1930s were not employed full time and were usually only hired on a short term basis. The squads were also usually chosen by a panel of selectors within the FA. Donnelly's main role with Turkey therefore was as the trainer, Head Coach, who would also decide on the starting XI.

The first of his three matches in charge was a July 1936 friendly against Yugoslavia at the Taksim Stadi in Istanbul. 8,000 Turks were present to witness an exciting 3-3 draw. A month later, Donnelly coached Turkey at the 1936 Olympic Games Football Tournament in Berlin, Germany. They performed badly however, loosing 4-0 to Norway in the First Round. The tournament would be won by Italy, who were then world champions.

Donnelly's Turkey squad at the 1936 Olympic Games

He would manage Turkey once more, in a 3-1 friendly loss to Yugoslavia in Belgrade in 1937. 2 of Yugoslavia's goals were scored by players of Donnelly's old club, Građanski Zagreb. Another Irishman would not coach a foreign nation again until Frank O'Farrell went to Iran in 1974.

Back at Fenerbahçe, he guided them to two more league titles in 1937 and 1938. By the end of his career at the club, Donnelly had won 2 Turkish Football Championships, an Istanbul Football League, a Turkish National League and an Istanbul Shield. He is one of the most successful managers in the club's history and his successor, the Hungarian Joszef Svenk who continued the clubs dominance into the 1940s.

Searching for what happened to Donnelly, where he ended up, where he died and when has so far yielded 0 results. The history of football it seems is too long and too wide to accommodate every former manager from is early days. So, sadly, Donnelly is another ghost in the story of football. But he should be credited and remembered as one of the few Irish coaches who truly achieved greatness in foreign lands. Its rather strange that the three most successful Irish managers in the continent; Jim Donnelly,  Jack Kirwan and Patrick O'Connell won their trophies over 60 years ago. This is certainly an area where Irish football is no longer punching its weight.

To Jim Donnelly, the King of Kadıköy.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Don Givens

The Don of the Castle

1982 - 1987 : Neuchâtel Xamax (Switzerland)

Born in Limerick in 1949, Daniel Joseph Givens was one of Ireland's most talented footballers of the 1970s. He began his professional career at Manchester United, but it would be at Queens Park Rangers that Givens would make a name for himself and cement his place in the Ireland team.

He also played for Luton, Birmingham, Sheffield United and Bournemouth in a respectable career and in recent years would be known best to Irish football fans as the manager of the nation's U21 side.

Givens moved to Manchester at the age of 17. Over the next sixteen years in England he would make over 400 senior appearances, bagging more than a hundred goals. He never won any trophies in England, but his goals did help QPR to promotion to DIvision One in 1973 and to second place in the 1975-76 Championship. Retiring from international football in 1981, he finished his Ireland career with a record of 19 goals in 56 games. This record would not be beaten until Frank Stapleton scored his 20th senior goal for Ireland, against Malta in 1990.

Givens scored 19 times for Ireland, including a hat-trick against the USSR in 1974

By 1981, Givens was playing for Sheffield United in the old Third Division. His career at Bramall Lane ended horribly though, as the 33 year old Givens missed a crucial, final-day, last-minute penalty for the Blades, which sent them crashing down to Division Four. The following winter, Givens decided to leave England and Sheffield behind, having never escaped his reputation as the man who missed the penalty.

He took up an offer to move to Neuchâtel Xamax, a moderately sized club in the Swiss Football League. Xamax were founded in 1970 as a merger between two local teams and achieved promotion to the first division in 1973. They played their matches at the 25,000 capacity Stade de la Maladière, moving to a smaller ground in 2007. Givens' move to Xamax was unusual, but he later stated that after his spell at Sheff Utd, his desire had been to go abroad. He had considered Holland, until his agent recommended Xamax to him. 

Givens arrived at Xamax in mid-season, he was the only full-time player at the club., but would help them to the UEFA Cup Quarter-Final that year, scoring a goal in the loosing tie against Hamburg. In his first full season at the club, Xamax came a respectable 6th place and reached the final of the Cup of the Alps, in which Givens played, but lost 1-0 to Nantes. 

Givens (No.8) played in the 1985 Swiss Cup Final

In 1985, Xamax reached the Swiss Cup Final. Givens started the match, but was unable to prevent them loosing to an Arau team coached by a young Ottmar Hitzfeld. In the 1985-86 season, Xamax again marched to the UEFA Cup Quater Finals. They brushed aside Sportul Bucharest, Lokomotiv Sofia and Dundee United, before being put out by eventual winners Real Madrid 3-2 on aggregate. (One team that would progress to the Semis, would be Belgian club Waregem, who among their players was another Irishman named Liam Buckley.)

Domestically, Xamax were improving every year, and their final position had gone from 6th in 1982-83, to 2nd in 1985-86. In the 1986-87 season, Givens was handed the captain's armband and Xamax finally won the Swiss Championship for the first time in their history, outpacing Grasshopper Zurich by 5 points.

Givens winning the Swiss Championship in 1987

Givens retired in the summer of 1987 at he age of 38. He had captained Xamax to its first ever Championship, as well as seen them make great progress in Europe and in the Swiss Cup. He experienced something of a swansong in the country, having scored 35 goals in 150 appearances. He would go on to a respectable career as a coach, mainly of younger players. In the early 90s, he returned to Xamax to earn his badges, and later managed the Ireland Under-21s betweeen 2000 and 2010.

Givens as Irish U21 Manager

Givens himself would later recall his time in Neuchâtel as ""undoubtedly the best of my playing career". His stint in Switzerland is fondly remembered over there too, and he was recently voted the club's 31st best player in its history. Known as Daniel Don, his name is still mentioned on numerous forums and message-boards as an influential figure in the rise of Xamax as an established team in the Super League.

As Xamax's website warns its younger fans; "if the names of Hermann, Givens, Stielike and Gress mean nothing to you; you have not experienced the Golden Age of the club". 

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Cillian Sheridan

The Eastern Promise

2010 - 12 : CSKA Sofia (Bulgaria)
2013 - present : APOEL (Cyprus)

When Cillian Sheridan left Celtic in August 2010 few Irish fans expected to see him sign for CSKA Sofia. Sheridan holds the odd note of being an Irish international who has played at the top level in three countries, with none of them being England. While his brief spell in Bulgaria in 2010 was cut short by a variety of factors, it is hoped that his new adventure in Cyprus may bear more fruit, and keep some Irish players at least in the UEFA Champions League.

In 2010, few Irish players have ever made a move to an Eastern European league, and the Bulgarian leagues had never seen an Irishman before. Sheridan's choice was unique, surprising and commendable. 

The Cavan man's career had stop started consistently at Celtic. Signing for the Scottish giants in 2006, Sheridan rose increbily fast through the Parkhead ranks, and found himself in the first team squad at 17. He made his debut 2 days after his 18th birthday against Inverness in the Scottish Cup, setting up Kenny Miller's match-winning goal. His career would stutter with Celtic though, and the striker would only make 14 appearances for the club over the next three years. Loan spells with Motherwell, Plymouth Argyle and St. Jonhstone had yielded goals and some notice, and he was called up to the Republic of Ireland Under 21 squad by Noel King. Yet, he was overlooked at his parent club, and decided not to sign a new contract in 2010.

While weighing his options and considering his future, Sheridan was contacted by CSKA manager Pavel Dochev and invited to Sofia to watch the team take on city rivals Levski. After being offered a contract by the Bulgarians, Sheridan returned to Scotland to make a decision. He accepted the offer, and signed for CSKA on 13 August 2010, with Celtic receiving a fee of 300,000 pounds. Ridiculously, just hours after Sheridan signed for the club, Dochev resigned as manager.

CSKA Sofia were founded in 1948, by the Bulgarian People's Army (CSKA stands for Central Sports Club of the Army), and play at the Army Stadium. They are Bulgaria's most successful club, having won the Championship 31 times, and outperforming their rivals in European competition. They reached the semi-finals of the European Cup  in 1967and 1982. When they signed Sheridan, they had not won the league since 2008, and were slowly being overshadowed by Litex Lovech. Sheridan was signed along with Algerian goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi and Ghanaian William Tierro, as the club sought to revamp their side for the upcoming season.

Sheridan's move to CSKA raised eyebrows, with many questioning the value of playing in Bulgaria, as opposed to Scotland or the English Championship. But many commended Sheridan on the move, and on his obvious sense of adventure. Sheridan is not like many other Irish footballers of his generation.  While at Celtic, he studied at Strathclyde University, obtaining a diploma in Applied Osmography. He is well spoken, highly literate and well educated. His move to CSKA may reflect the intelligence and cultured personality of the striker.

Sheridan's career in Bulgaria started brightly; he made his debut against Welsh outfit The New Saints, and scored his first goal in his league debut away to Silven. He was awarded Man of the Match in his side's 2-0 win over Montana on September 25, scoring both goals. But his luck would not last, as manager Dochev was replaced by Gjore Jovanovski. Jovanovski wouldn't last long either, being replaced after only a month by Milen Radukanov, who in turn was replaced by Dimitar Penev. In his first two months with CSKA, Sheridan played under no less than four managers.

Sheridan started well for CSKA, scoring two against Montana

Such managerial turmoil was not unusual for CSKA. Current boss Penev is in his third spell as manager and is the club's 14th manager in ten years. This badly affected Sheridan's chances of success in Sofia. New coaches overlooked the player, in favour of more well known Bulgarian personalities and Brazilian imports. "I had a year to get used to Sofia, I was settling in but on the footballing side of it, there was a change of manager and I wasn't playing". He did manage to make 26 appearances in all competitions for the club. He bagged four goals, including a strike against Besiktas in the Europa League. In May he played in the final of the Bulgarian Cup, coming on as a 90th minute substitute in CSKA's 1-0 win.  In spite of picking up his medal, he was told in June that he could search for a new club.

After a few trials and reserve matches in America, he decided to sign on loan for St. Johnstone in Scotland, a club were he had played before. His season so far has been mixed, but the Irishman has netted for goals. On October 2, Sheridan stated that his primary focus was on returning to CSKA at the end of his loan and prove himself in the captial. "Ideally, I'd want to be playing for my team in Sofia. But that's not happening at the minute, so I've come away to get games and in January I'll have to see where I am". Rather than running away to Britain, as many Irish players have in the past, Sheridan seems determined to return to Bulgaria and try his hand.

Sheridan, back row second from the left, with CSKA 

He faced an uphill challenge however, as CSKA stated while he was on loan that he was for sale, and slapped a 3 million euro price tag on the player. Following the summer of 2012, he returned to Sofia, and was surprisingly handed the number 9 shirt. It appeared, after the new season's opening match in which Sheridan started, that his career in Bulgaria was back on track. It was not to be however, as on August 28th, both he and the club agreed to mutually terminate his deal, citing CSKA's serious financial problems. After rumours of a possible move to the Portland Timbers in the United States fell flat, the Cavan-man returned to Scotland and signed for Kilmarnock.

In one season at Rugby Park, Sheridan knocked up 9 league goals in 26 games, but lost his first team place to Kris Boyd, who had returned from Portland, the team Sheridan almost signed for. Therefore, in the summer of 2013 he left Kilmarnock and was again in search of a new challenge.

That call was answered on June 20th when APOEL F.C. of Cyprus announced on their website that they had clinched his signature. A handful of Irishman had played in Cyprus before, but never for a club of this magnitude. In recent seasons APOEL have transcended mere island football to become a fairly strong force in European football. This is was best displayed in the 2011-12 Champions League campaign where Thyrlos (The Legend)  reached the Quarter Finals after coming out of a group containing Porto, Zenit Petersburg, and Shakhtar. 

As well as being Cyprus' most recognisable club, APOEL are also the island's most popular and most successful team. 22 Cypriot League titles, 19 Cups, and 12 Super Cups to their name demonstrate this. Sheridan's new boss at the GSP Stadium is former Sporting, Hearts, and CFR Cluj coach, the Portuguese Paulo Sergio

He made his debut for APOEL in the Cypriot Super Cup against Apollon on August 17 2013. APOEL won the game 1-0 with the Irishman playing a full 90 minutes. Sheridan holds the accolade of winning three cup medals in his career, in three different countries.

The Wild Geese wishes Sheridan the best of success in Cyprus and in the forthcoming Champions League campaign. And even if he is not a success, Sheridan's bravery in moving to APOEL, and earlier to CSKA, should be recognised and commended. He has broken new ground for Irish footballers and hopefully it will inspire other young players to seek employment in other countries, rather than settle for lower league comforts in Britain.