Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Matthew Cassidy

2008 - 2010 : Enosis (Cyprus)
2010 - 2011 : AEL Limassol (Cyprus)
2011 - 2012 : Othellos (Cyprus)

Matt Cassidy was born in Blackpool, England in 1988. A midfielder, he began his footballing career with then-English Premier Division side Bolton Wanderers in 2004. 

He spent four years with the Trotters' youth academy and was even named as their player of the year in 2007. However, with Bolton plying their trade in the world's richest league, chances for youth players were hard to come by, and Cassidy would never make a competitive first-team appearance for Wanderers. He did graduate to their reserve team in 2007-08, but never climbed higher through the club's ranks.

Cassidy,  with Ireland
Although born in England, Cassidy's Irish grandparents permit him to play for the Republic of Ireland. He would chose this path, and in 2006 he made his debut for the Ireland Under-17s side. Further appearances at Under-18 and Under-19 level followed, and Cassidy would play multiple times in a green shirt during qualification for the Under 19's European Championships. The season was a disaster for the Irish, as they finished bottom of their group behind Georgia Slovakia and Turkey. Cassidy would never wear an Irish jersey again.

Despite playing in some pre-season friendlies and sitting on the bench for Bolton, the young Irishman by now at the age of 19 left England to find opportunities elsewhere. "When Sammy Lee left, I fell out of favour". He went to Cyprus and a team by the name of Enosis Neon Paralimni. He did this in spite of interest from a number of respectable lower-league British sides inclyding Doncaster Rovers and Luton Town. A rather brave and worldly decision, especially considering the track-record of fellow Irishman in this regard. 

Cassidy was Ireland's second football export to Cyprus, following former Liverpool ace, Ronnie Whelan who spent some years on the island as a manager.

Enosis hail from the town of Paralimni in Eastern Cyprus. Since the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974, many Greek Cypriots fleeing the North have settled in the town, bolstering its size to about 15,000 people. The club have existed since 1944 after a merger of three local sides. They have never won a First Division title (Cypriot football's highest honour) nor have they ever won a Cup, but have competed in the First Division since 1969.  They play at the 5,800 capacity Tasos Markou ground and their nickname is the Clarets.

Cassidy (centre) playing for Enosis
Cassidy would be drafter in for the 2008-09 season, a chaotic one for the club. He would play under no less than 5 coaches that year as Enosis finished the campaign in 10th (out of 14 teams) and avoided relegation. Marios Constantinou, who signed the Irishman, would resign in December. His replacement, Panayiotis Xiourouppas would last three weeks for making way for Bulgarian Eduard Eranosyan. A month later, he would also get the chop, as the club promoted two first-team coaches to the dual roles of manager.

In all this, Cassidy played regularly and cemented a place in the team. He was also, understandably, enjoying the lifestyle aswell; "I had an apartment and a nice car, the beach was close and the weather and food were superb". He even learned the lingo, adding Greek to English and German as languages in his arsenal.

The next season, 2009-10, would be much more stable for the club, as under Macedonian coach Cedomir Janevski, Enosis would finish in 8th. After two solid years and 32 appearances with Enosis, Cassidy won a move to big-boys, AEL Limassol.

One of Cyprus' strongest clubs, AEL have won the First Division 6 times, and the same number of Cups. As of 2012, they are Cyprus' champions. They play home matches at the 14,000 seater Tsirion Stadium in Southern Cyprus' Limassol city.

At AEL Limassol
Cassidy, then aged 21, penned a five year contract with AEL on June 9 2010. The club put in a dreadful campaign finishing in 9th, with Cassidy once again playing under a host of different managers; he Czech Dusan Uhrin, Romanian Mihai Stoichit and finally Dutchman Raymond Atteveld. Cassidy failed to carve a place in the first-team with the club, and after just one year and a meagre 2 games, he left AEL by mutual consent. 

The year with Limassol effectively ruined the Irishman's chances of making it big in his career. After parting with the club, he was forced to move down a league, to the Second Division. All the good performances and accolades he won with Enosis were forgotten, as he signed a deal with lowly Othellos Athienou. 

The club hail from Larnaca and play at the 2000 capacity Othellos Atheinou stadium. For most of their history, they have competed in the Second Division, which is where Cassidy joined them. The season was decent for the Irishman, as he played 25 games for the club. However, they finished in 6th place, missing out on promotion. Cassidy's contract was not renewed, and after just a season with Othellos, he was again unemployed.

He left Cyprus afterward, and in August 2012 he signed a deal with English Conference side Hyde F.C., where he is still playing. It seems he gave it his best shot in Cyprus, and almost became a big player, over there at least.

From believing in Champions League qualification with AEL, to mucking it with Hyde, Cassidy's unlikely career has fallen through. Like many Irish boys, his dreams of Premier League glories were dashed at 19. Yet, unlike many Irish boys, he decided to not settle for lower-league ambiguity and reached for the sun. Brave, sadly it didn't work out. But at only 23, Cassidy still has many years to make a decent and respectable career for himself, but it probably could have been more.

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