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Thread: Foot.ie Q&A Session - Richard Sadlier - Answers

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    Post Foot.ie Q&A Session - Richard Sadlier - Answers

    The questions posed for this Q&A Session can be found here.

    Which moment made you feel the most pride - making your international debut, or seeing St. Pats beat Sovetov last year?

    They are too entirely different experiences to be honest, so aren’t really comparable with one another. The result in Russia was achieved solely by the management team and players. It would be a bit of a stretch to take credit for any of it because of simply organizing flights and hotels. While I was pleased for everyone involved, it wasn’t in any way down to my input, so in that way it couldn’t be compared to getting a cap.

    I was delighted for the people who had been involved with the club for so long though, it was great to share the experience with some of them. My fondest memories of playing for Ireland was that all my family were there throughout.

    They called out to the team hotel a couple of times, I met them immediately after the final whistle, and I went for pints with them that night. If I’d known then that I’d get my hip injury three weeks later and never return I’d maybe have soaked it up a bit more. All in all though, the two occasions are up there with my most memorable times in football.

    What would you like to see happen with LOI Clubs to enable them to get crowds in?

    Nothing needs to happen to clubs. What needs to change is the general apathy felt by most Irish people towards the League. It’s difficult to think what more clubs can do to be honest. The League gets more coverage than it ever has in the media than at any time in the past. That’s a huge help.

    Having a one-hour programme in a prime-time slot covering all the action each week is astonishing for a competition which attracts so few people. European results have been remarkable in the last few years also, yet that hasn’t made much of an impact on crowds. Clubs invested hugely (and in some cases recklessly) on wages for players in the hope that would bring the crowds, but it didn’t.

    The FAI also do a considerable amount of marketing and promotion of the League. That’s the way to go. People sit around and wait for fantastic facilities to be provided, or a European breakthrough into the group stages, or an All-Ireland League or any number of other fanciful notions which are beyond us at the moment.

    The reality is there are a limited number of people who have an interest in the league here, and of those many do not attend games for their own reasons. I fear crowds will actually decrease rather than increase in the next year or two due to the necessary decision by many clubs to revert to a part-time structure, the drop in standard which will arise from that, and the fact that fewer people can afford to attend so many games given how the economy has gone.

    Do you think Summer soccer is better for the league in general or should we go back to winter football?

    Absolutely no doubt in my mind that winter football would be a step backwards for the League. You only have to look at the European results to see the improvement.

    I know there are other factors which contributed to the improvement – increased wages offered, full-time training, improved coaching – but approaching European games fully match-fit and in mid-season rather than in pre-season is a big difference.

    I know some clubs would revert to winter football for their own reasons, but the League as a whole has benefited from the move, so it’s a no-brainer for me.

    Do you ever plan on getting into management?

    No plans whatsoever. Many people believe coaching and management is the next best thing to playing, but it has never interested me in any way. A lot of the roles I’ve taken on since I retired have been ones I would not have expected I’d be interested in doing, but I’d be amazed if I ever had a change of heart on this one.

    Do you resent that your playing career was cut short by injury? Does the FAI or any other group provide adequate support structures for players in that sort of situation?

    Do I resent it? At the time I thought the world was caving in on me and I didn’t deal with it at all well. I’m a lot more accepting of it now, and to be honest, because it’s probably 8 years since I lasted a full game, it’s not something which ever enters my mind any more.

    There is a limited amount of help you can get from anyone such as the FAI/FA or the PFA/PFAI. The only thing you want anyone to do in that situation is to get you back playing, but that’s obviously beyond everyone. I did a degree in university in Surrey which was fully funded by the PFA, Millwall gave me a job at the Academy, but the main help I got was from a sports psychologist who helped me come to terms with retiring.

    That was the most beneficial input I’ve had from anyone in my entire life. The tendency for lads in that situation is to feel sorry for yourself, hit the booze, and just whinge about your bad luck. I did that for a while but realized I was screwed if I didn’t snap out of it. It’s only when you reach that point that anyone around you can help in any way. To be honest, I don’t give it any thought anymore.

    Would you mind outlining your reasons for leaving Pats? Do you think you will return to football administration, and if so, will it be here in Ireland? There have been some suggestions that you are unhappy with the mindset of the clubs and league, and this may be a good opportunity to set things straight or air your thoughts.

    Part 1 - I’ve no current plans to make a return to football admin, but I wouldn’t entirely rule it out some time in the future.

    Part 2 - In relation to why I left Pat’s, there were a number of factors. Firstly, the landscape completely changed 6 months after I got the job, and the job became one of constant confrontation with everyone as a result – the players, the management, the staff and the supporters.

    And because the team we doing so badly, it became a pain in the arse having to speak to the media and defend some of what was going on, especially when I didn’t fully agree with a lot of it. We took the decision to reduce spending everywhere, so I knew the year last season would be difficult, but the nature of the job and the ever-dwindling resources to do some of the things we wanted made it increasingly difficult and a lot less enjoyable.

    Also, there was very little time in my week to do anything other than work, so it wasn’t something I was going to continue to do long-term. Basic things like going to the gym weren’t possible anymore, and given my various aches and pains from my playing days, that meant I was generally in a fair bit of pain all the time.

    Part 3 - In relation to the mindset of other clubs, I assume that is a reference to comments I made in my column a while back. One of the frustrating elements of working in the League, is the shortage of people who are prepared to entertain any idea which may benefit the League if it doesn’t benefit their own club.

    Anyone with any knowledge or interest in the League knows there needs to be a realization that the fortunes, good or bad, of any club, is taken by the population as a reflection of the overall state of the League. If the general population continue to see us as half-wits who cannot run ourselves in a prudent way, the likelihood of them attending games to support us becomes less likely.

    Hearing various club officials express delight at Bohs conceding that late goal against Salzburg, Cork City going bust, Drogheda nearly doing so or Derry City being relegated became very tiresome. I realize there will always be rivalries between all clubs, and that is healthy, but given we were all in the **** together, a sense of the bigger picture from some people wouldn’t have gone amiss.
    Last edited by A face; 16/06/2010 at 4:20 PM.
    The SFAI are the governing body for grassroots football in Ireland, not the FAI. Its success or the lack of is all down to them.

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    Do you regret appointing Kenna as manager?

    I regret that it went the way it did. Jeff wanted to bring Ian Foster as his assistant but that fell through at the last minute. That was a big blow first of all. Also, I told Jeff that I was trying to offload all the players in the squad when he was appointed, (we could only shift 6 in the end) and that he would be given very little money to replace them.

    Those who remained found it a little hard to accept they were no longer at a club who would challenge for the title, so that didn’t help. Despite being very open about our budget restraints, I think people still expected Jeff to have Pat’s challenging for honours, which in reality was never likely to be the case. It wasn’t the ideal scenario for anyone to manage, so I share in any criticism aimed at him. However, the financial realities took over, and the long-term future of the club was given priority over short-term success of the team on the field.

    I’ve no regrets on that front at all. We knew we’d have a difficult year, but decided at the outset that we’d do things a certain way. He was instrumental in achieving success in Europe though, (he was adamant we find money from somewhere to sign Fabio, for example) which unfortunately has been forgotten because of how poor things went domestically.

    He’s a very decent bloke though, anyone who met him would testify to that. The manner in which he departed reflected very well on him also.

    Would you like to have a role within the FAI?

    Too broad a question to be honest. However, I enjoy working in the media which might not be possible if I began working for the FAI. It would have to be one hell of a job to get me to give up the media side of things, so it’s be highly unlikely to be honest. As I said earlier though, very few of the jobs I’ve taken on have been ones I thought would interest me, so you never know.

    Do you think it is possible to have a professional league in Ireland, where the european entrants are of sufficient standard to reach the group stages of the two european competitions?

    Using St Pat’s experiences from the last two seasons, it was Steau Bucharest and Hertha Berlin who denied us a place in the group stages. Both had average crowds in excess of 25,000, have several internationals in their squads, and their managers would probably have been sacked if we’d beaten either of them.

    That is the difference at the moment. For that gap to be bridged, crowds in the league would need to increase ten-fold. I do not go along with the theory that a European breakthrough would make a significant increase in attendances either. Everyone keeps making excuses as to why attendances are so pitiful everywhere, but until enough people in this country start to take an interest in the League, there will be no significant change to any of it.

    Given that the league isn’t operating as a fully professional structure any more (many teams are part-time, for example), the results in Europe may not continue to be as good as they have been recently. As for whether we can have a fully professional league - again that depends on revenue streams which leads me back to the same point – not enough people currently attend games for most cubs to operate in a fully professional way.

    How would you feel about the adoption of a rugby style format similar to the magners league comprising clubs from Ireland, Wales and Scotland? Do you think such a format would more likely lead to dividends in Europe than the current league structure.

    Irrespective of my view on it, it would simply never happen. UEFA would never allow it because the knock-on effect would be enormous. If they allowed teams from three or four different countries to form that kind of a set-up, how long do you think it would be before the top European clubs would seek to form a similar league of their own? A non-starter.

    Do you think Millwall deserved the win against Swindon Town in the play off?

    I was at the game and was just delighted they won. I went to last year’s final, and though it was a far more entertaining game, they lost 3-2 and it was hard to watch to be honest. There was so little difference between the top sides in that division this year that you could have made a case for any of them to have been promoted.

    In the end, they benefited from the ball bobbling on the pitch at the worst time for Swindon when they looked likely to equalize. Play-offs can often be decided on such minor factors. Any team that wins a play-off deserves it in my view.

    Ritchie would you go back to the Uk if you get the chance?

    Probably not. Spent 11 years there, and loved it. Enjoy it far too much in Dublin now though.

    Did you ever wake up beside a stranger?

    Afraid so.

    "Do you think it is possible to have a professional league in Ireland, where the european entrants are of sufficient standard to reach the group stages of the two european competitions?" -> I think the answer to this is yes on the condition it is a well operation void of controversey and where players can make a sustainable living and have realistic chance of getting genuine measured moves to clubs in England. But i think the league needs to capture the general publics imagination. How do you think we can do that?

    Part 1 - How do we get the League to capture the imagination of the Irish public? If there was an easy answer, it would have been implemented long before now. In any discussion on the League, realism is badly needed. The fact is very few football fans in this country have an interest in the League (ie enough to pay to see it).

    It is pointless debating why that is the case, it is important to accept it though. For example, television stations were criticized last year because none showed a live European game involving any Irish side. If there was sufficient interest in terms of viewing figures or advertising revenue then they may have, but there wasn’t so they didn’t.

    Part 2 - Your point on players making a sustainable living is interesting. Where do you think the money would come from? In the main, players go where they are best paid. Clubs have over-spent recently with disastrous results in some places, so the priority in the next couple of years is to operate in a prudent way, regain some of the credibility which was shattered recently, and look at reducing their debts.

    I know it is not a subject that interest fans that much, but reducing overall debts is vitally important for the long-term survival of clubs. Most people would rather see their teams win games and lift trophies, but getting their finances in order is of far greater importance.

    Where do you see the League in five years time if things remain as presently?

    A lot depends on how discussions go between the clubs and the FAI in the next six months. The clubs recently voted unanimously to extend the merger with the FAI beyond next season, so it is now up to everyone to put their heads together and discuss any variations to the current format which would improve it.

    There are very strong views on all sides as to the merits of the existing Participation Agreement, so it is an opportunity for everyone’s voice to be heard, and hopefully a conclusion will be reached which is supported by the majority.
    Last edited by A face; 16/06/2010 at 4:22 PM.
    The SFAI are the governing body for grassroots football in Ireland, not the FAI. Its success or the lack of is all down to them.

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    Can you suggest three things that would improve the League (and are possible to implement as things stand)?

    Part 1 - I would ask for clarity from the FAI as to the terms of the agreement they have reached with a third party in relation to the staging of friendly games in this country.

    I realize they have the right to sign any commercial agreements they like and not disclose the details, but in the spirit of openness, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for clubs to expect to be in the know on something which affects their ability to arrange games.

    Whether people like to hear it or not, arranging these relatively meaningless games with foreign opponents can generate more money than playing in half a dozen or so league games.

    Part 2 - All contracts have a line in them which states they end at the “end of the season”. This is deliberately vague to accommodate clubs whose season is extended by reaching the FAI Cup final.

    I would change that to “end of the competitive season” so that it would include games in the group stages of the European competitions. Had St Pat’s beaten Steau Bucharest last year and reached the group stages, nearly all of the players in the squad would not have been under contract for the final two games in the group (late November and mid-December if I remember correctly).

    The reality would have been all the players could have grouped together and made outrageous wage demands, knowing they are the only players eligible to compete because the UEFA squads would have been submitted long before that point and cannot include new signings.

    That might sound cynical towards players, but they are well advised by their agents and the union, so they would have been well within their rights to take such an aggressive stance given the unlikelihood of them being in such a strong position again.

    It is not possible in this country to sign short-term deals, so the squad would have to have been signed for the following season too. That could potentially put the club under great financial strain. I know the possibility of clubs reaching the group stages is remote at the moment, but making such a simple change would remove the potential for the above scenario

    Part 3 - I would introduce the right for clubs to recall players they have released on loan to other clubs. Many players are at clubs where they are not in the immediate plans of the manager for a variety of reasons.

    Managers would be more likely to release them on loan if they knew could recall them if the players who remained suffered from suspensions or injuries at any time. Players develop from playing games rather than sitting in the stands, so it would be a win-win scenario for all.

    Do you think every club needs an active trust supporters trust?

    It is tempting to say yes, but I don’t think there is any one scenario which would necessarily suit all. What all clubs benefit from is having decision-makers who know what they’re on about, supporters who feel connected to the club in a meaningful way, and a responsible and realistic budget. There are a few ways to achieve this, so I wouldn’t limit it to setting up a Supporters’ Trust.

    When you were growing up, who was your football idol?

    Marco van Basten. There wasn’t as much European football on tv back then as there is now, but he stood out a mile when I was younger. The best centre-forward I remember seeing when I was a kid.

    Did anyone ever think you were French based on how your name was pronounced by Jeff on Soccer Saturday when you were banging them in every week for Milwall?

    No, but I found it hilarious that the mistake could have been made. It was a sign of how crap I was doing at the club back then, that even when I scored, people didn’t have a clue who I was. My mates found it hilarious, obviously.

    "In your opinion which 3 players are the most likely to move to a bigger club in england?" -> And what do you think can be done to change the mindset (or necessity) that players need to go England to 'better themselves'?

    Part 1 - I wouldn’t try to change it because I believe it to be true. The higher a player goes in terms of playing standard, the better chance he has of developing himself as a player and his career as a whole.

    Saying anything otherwise just isn’t true. It’s like trying to explain to a player in the Leinster Senior League that joining a team at the top of the Airtricity League would not be a step forward.

    Moving from Ireland to England would usually result in the following - you play in front of more people, are coached by more experienced managers, play with and against better players, receive wider media coverage, earn more money, enhance your prospects of an international call-up, have better medical support and training facilities, and generally improve your footballing education.

    It is a sore point for many LoI fans that so many of the better players move abroad, but until we can offer a credible, sustainable alternative here, that will always be the case.

    Part 2 - As for the three players, I’ve been hugely impressed by Shane McFaul at Sporting Fingal. From what I saw of Enda Stevens last year at Pat’s I think he has a very bright future if he commits himself fully.

    In terms of natural ability, I haven’t seen anyone as good as Mark Quigley is when he is at his best. Unfortunately for him (and for Bohs), its been a while since he has produced his best. Like Enda though, if he committed himself fully to his career, he could jump a level quite easily.

    What are your opinions towards Platinum One? Would you like to see them run the league?

    I used to work for them a few years ago and they’re decent people. In relation to running the league, they have shown no interest in doing so, so it’s a non-runner.

    Also, they currently advise several players and managers on contractual issues and negotiate on behalf of many of them, so there would be a possible conflict of interest there. Overall though, I think the League is best run by the FAI.

    They get criticized for some of the decisions they make, and rightly so in many cases, but there is no credible alternative anywhere in the country to replace them. The recent unanimous vote by all clubs to continue the merger with them is testament to that.

    The FAI have published the "Grow Your Club" guide, have you seen the document and do you think it could be useful to clubs? If so do you think clubs are well enough run to actually use it and benefit from it?

    Sorry, haven’t seen the document.

    What do you think of the theory that 'Centres of Excellence' as opposed to the normal tradition system (schoolboys, junior, intermediate then senior, club based) to develop players?

    Setting up a centre of excellence or an academy structure is all well and good, but unless there are several others doing the same, the players involved would not be involved in competitive games often enough, so remaining in the existing schoolboy leagues would serve them better.

    Also, I’m not sure where the funding for it would come, because the LoI clubs are under strain financially as it is.

    What do you think of the scholarship scheme through FAS?

    Don’t know enough about it to be honest.

    I've read your columns in the Sunday Independent over the past few years. The content is insightful and at times very humorous, especially when you refer to incidents during your time at Millwall. Just wondering, have you any plans to pursue a journalistic career or are you happy to continue as a pundit with RTE?

    Ah no, I’m happy just doing the columns for the Sunday Independent. I do not get pressured into writing on any particular issue or to take a certain view on any story, so from that side of it they’re great to work for.

    I’m enjoying the punditry with RTE also. Both roles are obviously part-time, so I’ve a bit of time on my hands at last, something I sorely missed while at St. Pat’s.

    Have you ever been in a Turkish prison?

    Unless this question has some double meaning I don’t understand, it’s a no!

    How would you assess your time at Pats?

    The most enjoyable and exciting times were the two European runs. We ended up in Latvia, Sweden, Germany, Malta, Russia and Romania, and I’ve great memories from that experience (getting mugged by a bare-foot five-year old street baggar in Bucharest in front of Pat’s fans at about 2am was the highlight!)

    Balancing the needs of so many who have conflicting ideas and needs can be very difficult. Everyone wants funding for their particular area, so implementing changes in the spending policy upset many people, and it was tough at times delivering bad news to so many so regularly.

    I was fortunate in that I had decent people who advised me and that I trusted, which was vitally important. I’m surprised in a way I stayed in the job as long as I did. There were several moments which could have lead to my departure, but I’m glad I stayed til the end of the season before I left.

    There were plenty of decisions I made which I regret, and there were a good few things which could have been dealt with better, but overall it was an experience I wouldn’t have changed in any way. It was chaotic at times, very stressful at others, but there were a good few days where I absolutely loved every minute of it.

    Will you be able to keep your MNS commitments whilst the world cup is taking place?

    Yes. We’re all used every three or four weeks on the show anyway, so with the break and the number of other pundits available, there won’t be any problems. I haven’t been given my dates yet anyway, but presumably there won’t be a clash. Basically though, I go where I’m told.
    Last edited by A face; 16/06/2010 at 4:28 PM.
    The SFAI are the governing body for grassroots football in Ireland, not the FAI. Its success or the lack of is all down to them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by A face View Post
    Can you suggest three things that would improve the League (and are possible to implement as things stand)?

    Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 -
    Three very good suggestions, especially the second one. You'd hope there is a forum for clubs to make such suggestions and that they are being heard. I think its invaluable hearing these things, which the majority of fans never even become aware of until it becomes an issue.
    The SFAI are the governing body for grassroots football in Ireland, not the FAI. Its success or the lack of is all down to them.

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    Never thought of Part 2 before, don't think anyones mentioned that, so true lol.

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    Thanks to Richard (and all concerned) for that session. Ammo there for a debate or three on FOOT.IE methinks. Appreciate that RS is happy enough on the media side but hope he gets a more "hands on" role somewhere in LOI.
    Bohemian FC The Big Club since 1890

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    I can't believe he answered the question "did you ever wake up beside a stranger?
    Nobody knows us, we don't care

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paddyfield View Post
    I can't believe he answered the question "did you ever wake up beside a stranger?
    Regreting you didn't ask him something filthier now?
    Dental Plan

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    Interesting insight
    Kom Igen, FCK...

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    He talks sense, although negative.

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    Always interesting I find. Good bloke.

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    Plenty of good, interesting answers there
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