Plot­ting a path to­wards new ca­reer in the dugout

Glory years at United and tur­bu­lent times on Wear­side have primed O’Shea for man­age­ment

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SOCCER - COLIN YOUNG

JOHN O’Shea is still liv­ing the dream. Next month he will close the chap­ter on 16 years of se­nior in­ter­na­tional foot­ball with the Re­pub­lic of Ire­land. He will cap­tain the team against the United States and say a proper farewell to the Irish foot­ball public.

“It is a won­der­ful ges­ture and I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate ev­ery­thing that Martin O’Neill and John De­laney have done to make it hap­pen,” O’Shea said yes­ter­day. “I spoke to Martin about play­ing a cou­ple of months ago and he said what about com­ing in for the Amer­ica game and mak­ing that the last game, and it sounded like a good way to fin­ish it off.

“I know I am very for­tu­nate to go out this way, which is why I am very proud and just look­ing for­ward to it. I’ll try to soak it all up, do the job prop­erly of course, and have a good fam­ily day which all the fam­ily and friends can en­joy and re­mem­ber. I want to take it all in as best I can, and thank ev­ery­body.”

One of the top five most dec­o­rated Irish foot­ballers, O’Shea hopes to eke out one more sea­son of club foot­ball be­fore he looks se­ri­ously at fol­low­ing Alex Ferguson into man­age­ment.

“He was cru­cial to my ca­reer, and when you see the re­sponse to his ill­ness, not just from the foot­ball world but peo­ple in all walks of life around the globe, you re­alise the huge ef­fect he has had on ev­ery­body. The up­dates from the club and the fam­ily are en­cour­ag­ing so fin­gers crossed we will see him up and about and trav­el­ling to watch games again soon.”

O’Shea has the Uefa A li­cence, gained on FAI cour­ses with Ire­land team-mate Glenn Whe­lan, and a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge he is des­per­ate to put into prac­tice.

He said: “What has hap­pened at Sun­der­land over the last cou­ple of years has been hugely frus­trat­ing but play­ing for Manch­ester United was like liv­ing in a fan­tasy world and Sun­der­land was like the re­al­ity. Within three months of sign­ing for Steve Bruce, he was sacked, and that started the cy­cle.

“It hap­pens in foot­ball, but I had that one con­stant in my life at Manch­ester United. Since then, I have seen so much stuff in the last few years at Sun­der­land, which will hope­fully stand me in good stead for man­age­ment, if I de­cide to go into that, or get an op­por­tu­nity. It has been a great learn­ing curve and I would be mad not to take some­thing from it.

“A man­ager has to have his own ideas and plans and I have seen so many things that have not worked out from so many dif­fer­ent man­agers, in dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions. There are a lot of fac­tors which af­fect things, but I have to take things on board and want to put them into prac­tice. It has def­i­nitely given me more of a taste for it, rather than put me off.”

John O’Shea ar­rived at Sun­der­land a se­rial win­ner. He had just sealed his fifth Pre­mier League medal with United when Bruce, an­other for­mer Old Traf­ford cen­tre-half, signed him for £6m. Seven years later, he could be leav­ing the Sta­dium of Light a loser. But a proud one.

“Hor­ri­ble.” That was O’Shea’s re­ac­tion to Sun­der­land’s sec­ond suc­ces­sive rel­e­ga­tion last month. As club cap­tain, he was the only player sent out to face the me­dia on the day it was con­firmed, with a dread­ful home de­feat to their near­est ri­vals Bur­ton Al­bion which summed up their sea­son and meant League One foot­ball next sea­son.

They were ahead at home for once. Nigel Clough’s nervy young side should have been out of sight by half-time but mounted a late come­back af­ter O’Shea hit the bar. For­mer Sun­der­land striker Dar­ren Bent was booed as he warmed up for aban­don­ing the club af­ter Bruce took them to 10th. And of course he had to come on and score — and at the end where he scored the fa­mous ‘beach ball goal’ against Liver­pool. Bent equalised four min­utes from time. Liam Boyce headed in the win­ner two min­utes af­ter the 90. Re­sults else­where meant Sun­der­land were down.

Chris Coleman knew it. He shook the de­lighted Clough’s hand and dis­ap­peared down the tun­nel. The play­ers and few sup­port­ers who had re­mained for the de­ba­cle seemed obliv­i­ous, how­ever.

Coleman left for good af­ter an al­most iden­ti­cal de­feat at his for­mer club Ful­ham in the penul­ti­mate game of the sea­son. The for­mer Wales man­ager was as stunned as any­one by El­lis Short’s de­part­ing gift af­ter sell­ing the club to a con­sor­tium of ‘foot­ball in­vestors’ led by for­mer Eastleigh chair­man Stuart

Don­ald. Coleman was sacked as part of a deal still to be rat­i­fied by the English Foot­ball League. Don­ald was in the crowd for the visit of cham­pi­ons Wolves on the fi­nal day. Sun­der­land won. O’Shea was cap­tain and de­parted four min­utes from the end to an ova­tion. He handed the arm­band to 16-year-old striker Bali Mumba.

O’Shea said: “Bali has come into train­ing with the first team dur­ing the sea­son and done very well. He is a 16-year-old who has come into that en­vi­ron­ment and not looked out of place, got plenty of knocks and kicks and tack­les and bounced back up and showed a good at­ti­tude, and I said to Rob­bie [Stock­dale, the care­taker man­ager] he would be the per­fect ex­am­ple of what this club’s fu­ture is all about.

“It was a sym­bolic mo­ment. That’s the fu­ture of the club, and lads like him re­ally need to be looked af­ter. Keep­ing the home-grown tal­ent and bring­ing them through and de­vel­op­ing them has to be the model they need go­ing for­ward.”

A few days af­ter the win over Wolves, O’Shea was the re­luc­tant re­cip­i­ent of the sup­port­ers’ player of year prize in one of the most low-key awards nights in the his­tory of foot­ball.

O’Shea added: “It was a strange one all right. Any time you win the player of the year award should be a very nice mo­ment and a very proud mo­ment. Per­son­ally, it was nice to win of course but it was a bit sur­real.

“Ul­ti­mately I don’t think there should be a player of the year award when a team has been rel­e­gated but the club has a tra­di­tion and wanted to keep that go­ing. Hope­fully the club can re­cover and kick on.

“There are so many good peo­ple at the club, great sup­port­ers, amaz­ing trav­el­ling sup­port who al­ways turn up in great num­bers away from home, no mat­ter how things are go­ing. It’s a great club, a big club and it has been a tough few sea­sons for all of us, with change af­ter change af­ter change af­ter change.

“The club now have a chance to re­ally get back to core val­ues, re-group and re­ally go again. Hope­fully things can start hap­pen­ing soon, be­cause there is a dan­ger of get­ting left be­hind.

“For the mo­ment, my con­tract is up in June and I want to con­tinue play­ing for an­other sea­son. Where it will be, we will have to wait and see, and we will see what hap­pens with things at Sun­der­land but yes, I would like to stay.

“Hope­fully things will be in place quickly and we will see how things are go­ing to be done. Chris Coleman said be­fore he left that Sun­der­land should be look­ing to go out and win League One but it will not be easy, as we have seen for clubs who have dropped into League One.”

The farewell to Ire­land next month will be very dif­fer­ent. O’Shea will have the arm­band again for his 118th and fi­nal in­ter­na­tional ap­pear­ance. The 766th game of his pro­fes­sional ca­reer. He will de­part be­fore the end to take the de­served ac­claim of the Lans­downe crowd.

But one man will be miss­ing in the seats at the Aviva.

Jim O’Shea was Fer­ry­bank AFC. Fa­ther to John and Alan, he died last year and his cof­fin was draped in the club colours.

“My main mem­o­ries would be Satur­day morn­ing, jump­ing in the car to go to watch games, and do­ing it all over again on a Sun­day morn­ing,” said John.

“When I was start­ing out, I was eight and play­ing in his un­der 11 team with Paddy O’Hearn. I was a right-winger back then, but I had plenty more pace in the locker and could just about avoid a few tack­les.

“He was chair­man of the club for a while, chair­man of the school­boys team as well and he just loved foot­ball and Fer­ry­bank. It was huge for him once he be­came in­volved — my mum would def­i­nitely tell you that — and he was pas­sion­ate about it, like a lot of his friends. He didn’t drink but it felt like he did to her be­cause he was out so much with the foot­ball club, whether it was fundrais­ing, help­ing with the club lotto or be­ing there for games. . . he ab­so­lutely loved it.

“It is pos­si­ble some­thing rubbed off and if he came over to Eng­land to watch me play, and when I started to play for Ire­land, he might say it would be pay­back for all the hard work he put in.

“He did play a bit ap­par­ently, but his friends at Fer­ry­bank would tell you that he was def­i­nitely bet­ter off the pitch or­gan­is­ing, than on the pitch. My mam played a lit­tle bit ac­tu­ally so we reckon I get my good feet from her. Her maiden name was Troy, so she ob­vi­ously has good danc­ing genes too, which might have helped.

“In fact, my brother Alan has a bet­ter left foot than me, with­out a doubt. He has that good fam­ily trait of ver­sa­til­ity — he has played left-back, cen­tre-back, cen­tre-for­ward, in goal. The funny thing is that he has al­ways been taller than ev­ery­one, he’s 6ft7, but he’s got such a sweet left foot, he takes all the cor­ners and free-kicks, which does look strange. He def­i­nitely has a bet­ter left foot than me, though.”

‘It has def­i­nitely given me more of a taste for man­age­ment, rather than put me off’

O’Shea with his son Al­fie af­ter de­feat to France in the Euro 2016 round of 16 match in Lyon

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