Simon Madden: 'There's always disappointment when players come back from England'

Sun, Sep 29 2019

Simon Madden Credit: Martin Doherty (ETPhotos)

Probably best known by League of Ireland observers as a consistently high-performing and dependable right-back, Simon Madden talks to about his career in football to date.

Following underage development at clubs including Cherry Orchard and Shelbourne, Simon signed as a trainee in 2004 for Leeds United, who had been recently relegated from the Premiership amidst financial implosion: "When I went over first, I thought I had a great chance there. The club kept going down, down and different managers were coming in. With Leeds being such a big club, those managers brought their own players in, with a bit more experience. I remember one manager (Kevin Blackwell) brought in Steve Stone, who was nearing his mid-thirties and others would have given a younger player a chance. It never went the way I wanted it to go, but I had a couple of injuries and didn't look after myself, unfortunately."

With first team opportunities limited, the young right-back returned to Ireland in 2008. U-21 International call-ups and joining local club Shamrock Rovers offset the disillusionment of not being able to forge a career cross-channel.

"There's always disappointment when players come back from England. I didn't make it and really thought I would. I had one first team game, under Dennis Wise, in a cup tie. Going back to Ireland, you're thinking … Where do I go from here? Do I want to play football? One of my old underage managers gave me a call and told me that Shamrock Rovers were looking for players. They were only down the road from me, so I thought it was a great chance to go back training. During those first few sessions, I got going straight away and that got me focused and back in love with the game. I got called up for the Irish U-21s for a U-23 tournament in Malaysia, when I didn't have a club at the time. Then at Rovers, I got called up for international European games, which was a great experience."

In early 2010, Madden became one of a considerable Irish contingent enticed to Darlington by Steve Staunton, who ultimately failed to preserve the club's football league status: "Steve brought a few Irish lads over, but Darlington were already in trouble before he went in. He gave it a go, but things didn't go his way. Another manager (Mark Cooper) came in, more English players arrived and we were almost outcasts. I had six months in League Two, which I enjoyed, but didn't want to find myself in that position again."

Linking up with Dundalk mid-season, manager Ian Foster later appointed the then 22-year old as club captain ahead of the 2011 campaign, following Liam Burns' departure: "I went in midway through the first season. Ian stayed on and I was surprised when he handed me the captaincy. We had players like Mark Quigley, Jason Byrne and Colin Hawkins, who were all in the League of Ireland ten years before me. They had won everything in the game and it was some privilege to captain that side. We had a great eleven, but probably struggled when we got injuries."

Moving on to Derry City in 2012, the Dubliner took part in that year's dramatic 3-2 FAI Cup final win over St Patrick's Athletic: "It was a mad game. We went 1-0 down and then scored straight away. Rory Patterson came on and scored two goals. It was emotional, up and down, but one of my most memorable moments in football and a great achievement. In extra time, we were 3-2 up. I made a run from our own box, I scored, but it was offside … It was never offside, but I couldn't stop and hold the line because I would have cramped up. I thought that was it, but when the whistle blew, I thought … How am I going to get back to defend? It showed how fit I was at the time, to make that run in extra time. It was a great day out - seeing all your family, who had made so many sacrifices for your career. Then back at the hotel with all your friends and loved ones … It was an amazing time."

Re-signing for Shamrock Rovers ahead of the 2014 season, Simon went on to enjoy four years back at Tallaght, where he showed an impressive level of consistency, playing in almost every game during that period: "I had two years in Derry and worked really hard. When I got the move, I didn't want to travel around the country anymore, which made me mentally stronger, to not give up my position back at Rovers. I worked really hard in training, got lucky with injuries, but looked after myself quite well. I stretched endlessly before and after training, games, everything. You can stay fit as long as you like, but you have to perform on the day. Some players go to Tallaght Stadium and the crowd can be tough if you're not performing. I was first choice and that shows how hard I worked and the displays I put in there."

Now with St Patrick's Athletic since 2018, Madden has turned to coaching various underage sides during the latter part of his playing career, while also becoming the Director of Football at St Francis: "I got the job last October with St Francis after I went in and met the board. We now have 20 underage teams and the club is progressing. Coaching is something that I want to get into when I give up football and this was a perfect opportunity."