Football/Soccer

Millwall's Shane Ferguson aiming to avoid slagging from club-mates after Irish derby

Northern Ireland's Shane Ferguson is still only 27 but he was in the 'old' group at Millwall training recently.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

IF he didn't know it already, Shane Ferguson learned the harsh lesson recently that time waits for no one in sport.

He's still only 27, and looks far younger, but the years are clocking up, as he admitted with regret: "See in training the other day at Millwall, on a Friday we'd do three teams, 'young', 'middle-aged group' and then 'old' – and I was in the 'old' age group for the first time and I was gutted, absolutely gutted.

"The lads were asking to check my birth certificate. It was disappointing, to be honest."

Ferguson wants to avoid further ribbing when he returns to the New Den next week, not least from a couple of club-mates who may be involved for the Republic of Ireland against Northern Ireland tomorrow night:

"There's a bit of bragging rights and you've got mates on that team as well. Obviously if I go back to Millwall and Shaun Williams and Aiden O'Brien are able to slag me off it wouldn't be nice!"

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Ferguson is happy to featuring regularly for the Lions now after considering a move over the close season:

"Yeah, I had conversations with the manager in the summer and it was left up to me to choose what I wanted to do at that stage.

"I've had a lot of great moments, like getting promoted, and sometimes it's hard to walk away.

"I said to myself 'I want to give it another six months to January and see how it goes from there.' I didn't want to leave with any regrets. Thankfully now I'm playing and it's worked out well.

"It's great – it was a tough time not playing at the start of the season and the last couple of months of last season as well, because the team was doing so well. I came back from an injury as well so I was just trying to get back up to speed again in pre-season. It's great playing regular football, it gives you that bit of confidence.

"It's hard going on Saturday watching your team and you might not even be on the bench, you don't want that to happen. You don't want to be in the stand on a Saturday, you want to be out there helping your team-mates.

"It's great that the manager has given me an opportunity and I'm really looking forward to carrying on for the rest of the season."

Breaking into the Northern Ireland team might be tougher for the left-sided Ferguson, but he has a wise head on those old-ish shoulders: "I play a couple of positions in the team and the lads that play there as well are great competition, so it's tough. I always train hard so that when I come away I am ready for that opportunity if needed.

"It's going to be a great atmosphere and a game we're looking forward to – and hopefully we can get the win".

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