Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Paddy Sloan

1948 - 1949 - AC Milan (Italy)
1949 - 1950 : Udinese (Italy)
1950 - 1951 : Brescia (Italy)
1954 - 1955 : Rabat Ajax (Malta)
1964 : South Melbourne (Australia)
1965 : Brunswick Juventus (Australia) 

Joshua Walter Sloan, better known as 'Paddy', was a dual Irish international footballer, who played as a winger for numerous clubs in post-war England and beyond. Born in Lurgan, County Armagh in 1920 he would first play for his local side Glenavon in the Irish League. He transferred to Manchester united as a seventeen year old, but failed to make an appearance and in 1939 he switched to Tranmere Rovers.

Sloan at Arsenal
World War Two broke out that year, and Sloan joined the Royal Air Force, being stationed in Canada. Throughout the war he made 22 appearances for Tranmere, and a handful as a guest for other clubs, in various war time matches.

After the end of the conflict, he moved to London giants Arsenal. The move was successful and Sloan became an integral part of the Gunners' post-war team over the next two years. A brief move to Sheffield United ensued in 1947 where he played for one season and just over 10 games.

In 1945, Sloan was called up to represent his country. He would go on to earn a further 5 caps for Ireland over the following two years. However, all of these caps would not be earned with the same Irish team. Until a FIFA ruling in 1950, which called for two separate teams Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, international football was graced by two distinct teams, both claiming to be and calling themselves Ireland. Once was the Belfast-based IFA's Ireland (predecessor to Northern Ireland) and the other was the Dublin-based FAI's Ireland (predecessor to the Republic of Ireland). Between 1924 and 1950, a number of footballers represented both teams at varying times, becoming referred to as dual internationals. Sloan was one of these men. He made three appearances for the Belfast Ireland, twice against Wales and once against England. In spite of this, in 1946, he travelled with the Dublin Ireland, on an Iberian tour and played twice against Portugal and Spain. After 1947 however, Sloan would never be called up for either team again.

Sloan with Milan team-mate
Albert Gudmundsson
In the summer of 1948, he signed for Italian big boys AC Milan. It marked a major upturn in the fortunes of the Lurgan man, as he would be playing in the 1948-49 season alongside some of Europe's top footballers, including Albert Gudmundsson and Riccardo Carpellese. His coach would be the legendary tactician Giuseppe Bigogno who managed Milan, Inter, Fiornetina and Lazio in his time.

Milan had finished the previous season in 2nd place and were still searching for their fourth scudetto. Sloan would enter a Serie A that was full of British names. City rivals Internazionale were then coached by Welshman David John Astley, while over in Turin, Torino were being led by Englishman Leslie Lievesley and Juventus by the Scot Will Chambers. Also in the Juventus ranks was English forward William Jordan

Sloan at Milan
He made his debut at the San Siro on October 24th, and even got on the score-sheet with a 48th minute goal. The match, against Triestina, ended in a 3-1 win to Milan. A week later he scored again, in only his second match in a 2-2 draw away to Lucchese. In December he netted another strike in a 4-1 away win over Padova. Padova's goalscorer that day was Englishman Charles Adcock.

By Christmas, Milan were sitting in 5th place in the league. Then, on January 1st, the club would make one of the biggest signings in their history by bringing in Swedish striking ace Gunnar Nordahl. Signed from Norrkoping where he had scored 93 goals in 95 matches, Nordahl had already become a legend in his native Sweden. He even found the net 43 times for his country, in just 33 matches. Over the course of the next seven years, he would score over 200 goals for Milan, earning the accolade of league's top scorer for five years in a row.

From January, Nordahl linked up successfully with Sloan, Burini and Carpellesse, scoring on his debut against Pro Patria. Milan would push forward for the second half of the season, and chase down Juventus, Inter and Torino. Sloan found the net another six times, including strikes against Roma in January and a 34th minute equaliser against Internazionale in a thrilling 4-4 Milan derby. He hit the net against Triestina again in February and against Novara in March. In May he picked up a slight injury, and missed out on the season's run in. However, he returned for the season's penultimate game against Sampdoria at home, and scored twice in a 3-2 win to earn Milan a 3rd place finish for the season.
Sloan (front-row, far right) with AC Milan against Torino

The Serie A that year was won by Torino. The season is notably famous for the Superga Air Disaster which claimed the lives of 18 of Torino's championship winning squad at the close of the season. In a gesture of supreme sportsmanship, both AC Milan and Inter put aside differences and requested that Torino be named Champions before the season had even ended. 

After 30 games and 9 goals, Sloan was released by Milan, and signed briefly for Torino in the summer. The move broke down however, and within the week he had moved again to Udinese. Italy's second oldest club ,they were founded in 1896 as a gymnastics and fencing club, and first gained promotion to the top-tier in 1913. By the time of Sloan's arrival in late-August 1949, the club were still in search of a trophy and languishing in Serie B. The club were then playing their home matches at the 25,000 capacity Stadio Moretti (moving to their current Friuli ground in 1976). 

Sloan (back-row, fourth from left) with Udinese

Sloan's manager at the Moretti was 1938 World Cup winning goalkeeper Aldo Olivieri. He made 23 appearances for Udinese in the 1949-50 season scoring 6 goals. His form and goals helped earn the Friuliani promotion back to the Serie A for the first time in 25 years. They finished in second place behind winners Napoli. Sloan would not get to play in Serie A again, as the club had decided to sign a Danish player called Sorensen, and the league's one foreigner policy meant that Sloan was released.

In the summer, he was signed by another Serie B side, Brescia. Rondinella (the Little Swallows) as they are known were founded in 1911. They first reached the Serie A in 1913. Between then and 1950, the club bounced between the top two divisions, without tasting much success. Today they play their home matches at Stadio Mario Rigamonti (named after a defender who died in Superga), but in 1950 they played at Porta Venezia.

Playing alongside Sloan in the Rondinella squad that year was a young Lorenzo Bettini who would go on to become one of Serie A's most prolific ever goalscorers. His manager was the experienced Luigi Bonizzoni, who would later coach a young Giovanni Trapattoni at Milan in 1958. Sloan played 19 games for Brescia and scored 8 goals, as they finished the campaign in a disappointing 9th place, seven places and thirteen points adrift of promotion. That season, Sloan's old club AC Milan won the Serie A for the first time 42 years, while Udinese would finish in 9th.

The season with Brescia would be his last in Italy, and in 1951 he returned to England at the age of 31 to play for Third Division side Norwich. Sloan was third Irishman to grace Italian football, and the first Irish professional footballer in Serie A.

After another 3 years in England, Sloan decided to move back to Southern Europe. He was hired by Maltese outfit Rabat as their player/manager for the 1954-55 season. He replaced the Scotsman Donald McDonald, who was sacked after Rabat had come short the previous season, despite mass hype.

Today they are known as Rabat Ajax, but back in the 1950s there were simply called Rabat FC. They won their first Maltese Championship in 1985, but when Sloan arrived, they had never won anything. In another Irish connection (just like Roddy Collins' Floriana), Rabat owe their origins to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers playing a match in the town, at the site of Rabat's present stadium.

Although he was the player/manager he didn't actually play any matches for the team, but coached them instead. The season was utterly unsuccessful however, as Rabat would falter and finish in seventh place, second last. Sloan left the club, and returned to England.

In the mid-1960s he emigrated to Australia with his family. He worked briefly for South Melbourne Ringwood City and Brunswick Juventus during the decade before retiring from football in 1969.

Paddy Sloan died in Australia in 1993 and the age of 72. It was a quiet end to the great life of a gentle and unassuming character, who broke ground for Irish professional footballers. The first professional Irish football in Serie A. Paddy Sloan.

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