Football/Soccer

Peter Crouch's former boot boy David McGoldrick determined to show his worth as Republic prepare for Euro 2020 showdown with Switzerland

Georgia's Otar Kakabadze and Republic of Ireland's David McGoldrick battle for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying, Group D match at the Aviva Stadium..
Andy Watters

DAVID McGoldrick was a half-a-million pound player by the time he was 16. But the Republic of Ireland striker had to wait until August the 10th this year before he got his first touch in the Premier League.

Fifteen years on from his £500,000 switch from boyhood club Notts County to a Southampton youth team already brimming with bright talents, McGoldrick arrived for training ahead of tomorrow night’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Group D favourites Switzerland fresh from Sheffield United’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last Saturday.

Now, instead of listening in from the outside, he can actually take part in conversations about the Premier League.

"It's a small thing but confidence-wise it's great,” he explained.

“I had Skip [Seamus Coleman] coming in for a chat, asking me about the Prem, talking about this and that, and we could have an actual chat about the Prem.

“Whereas before I was asking me about this player and that player and now we could actually have a conversation. You don't actually realise but that's a big confidence boost.

"You're on equal terms, not with Seamus because Seamus is a legend, but we're playing in the same league now, not in different leagues.”

Rewind 15 years and it seemed that McGoldrick had the world at his feet. The Saints invested heavily to add him to a talented youth set up that already included Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Adam Lallana.

“At my first training session, Theo trained and I hadn’t seen pace like it for a 15-year-old,” he recalls.

“He was lightning, lightning pace.

“But technically, Adam was ahead of everyone. He had a problem with his heart so he missed out a season which put him back a little bit.

“Gareth was quiet for the first couple of years but then one summer he came back just like a man, he just filled himself up and came back with loads of confidence and as soon as he got in the team he took off.

“For raw talent it was Theo and Adam but Gareth developed into a monster like I’d never seen.”

Manager Harry Redknapp “took a shine” to him and drafted him in to train with the first team squad that included Kevin Phillips, James Beattie and Peter Crouch. He had a good relationship with future England striker ‘Crouchy’.

“I was his boot boy,” McGoldrick explains with a smile.

“He used to give me £40 a month and every time he scored he'd give me a tenner on top.

“I think he scored 15 goals so I got a few extra tenners. At Christmas time, he came and said did I want a bonus or do I want him to take me on a night out. I said: 'I want a night out with Crouchy' so I went on a night out with Crouchy. It was a great night, I can't remember anyway.”

Crouch banged in the goals but Southampton were relegated and he left for Liverpool at the end of that 2004-05. Redknapp promoted McGoldrick into the first team as the Saints battled to get out of the Championship but after loan spells back at County and at Bournemouth and Port Vale, he left the Saints for Nottingham Forest in 2009.

“I learned a lot down there,” he says.

“There were troubled times at the end when I left because of the money situation but I’ve got enough good memories of my time there.”

His four frustrating seasons at Forest included more loan spells at the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and Coventry and it was only when current Republic manager Mick McCarthy brought him to Ipswich Town that he settled and began to fulfil his potential. He has enormous respect for McCarthy who later recommended the powerful centre-forward to Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder.

“What you know about Mick is that he’s an honest man,” he says.

“If you show him respect he’ll give you respect back. That’s quite rare these days and Chris and Mick are exactly the same. I can understand why they get on, I see a lot of similarities in them as men.

“I played under Mick for six years at Ipswich, that’s a long time in football to play under one manager, and me and Mick never had one bust-up.

“He showed me respect when I had family issues and I showed him respect back. For him to give me a good reference to Chris is not something that surprised me really because that’s just the man he is.

“Him and Chris have got the same traits. Both Yorkshiremen, both working class and both just real good men. Before the football you can have a laugh and joke with them but when it’s time to get serious you don’t cross the line with either of them because you know you’ll get an earful. And that’s the best kind of manager for me, personally.”

With a reference from McCarthy, McGoldrick transferred to Sheffield United at the start of last season and repaid the faith shown in him by scoring 15 times as the Blades forced their way out of the Championship. Now 31, he is where he’d always dreamed of being and he doesn’t intend to waste a minute of this Indian summer.

"I don't want to waste it,” he says.

“There are players who have broken through at 31 who have then had three, four or five good years.

"Rickie Lambert came into it late and he scored goals and got an England call up later in his career and Glenn Murray (Brighton) is scoring goals now and I want to do the same.

“I obviously want to establish myself as a Premier League player first and get games and goals, I've only had three starts. I want more and I feel good, I feel hungry and that's the main thing.

"Hopefully it will last a couple of years but the main thing is that the team is not a one season wonder. People are writing us off and we want to prove them wrong and stay in the league."

Of course he’s not the only Sheffield United player in the squad these days. Let-back Enda Stevens, centre-half John Egan and his strike partner Callum Robinson are all in the Republic panel nowadays. "Enda played before in the Premier League (for Aston Villa) but now he's different class,” McGoldrick explained.

“At Stamford Bridge on Saturday he was probably the best player on the pitch.

"He is full of confidence at the minute and he's got everything that you want in a left full - he's got pace, is good on the ball, is a good tackler and can play in a back three when we do need him there.

"Also John Egan. He's going to be marking some of the best centre forwards in the world this year and so far he has not looked out of place one bit.”

Robinson, who qualifies through his Monaghan-born grandmother, was an England youth international who could prove another valuable find for the Republic. He scored one and made the other against Chelsea last week after crossing the Pennines from Preston in the summer.

"You cannot but get on with Callum,” said McGoldrick.

“Every day he's just bubbly, it could be raining or snowing outside and he will come into the club in shorts and a pair of flip-flops.

"That's just him, he's always happy. He's a good player as well, to be fair. The manager messaged me in the summer about him and I told him to get him. That's how confident I was that he could make the step up and fit in.”

He was man of the match in the 2-0 win against Gibraltar. He had a shot deflected into the net (it was given as an own goal) and hit the post in the second half. After 10 games he’s still searching for his first goal in the green jersey and one could be enough against the Swiss tomorrow night.

“It's just waiting for one to go in and once one goes in I think more will come,” he said.

“In these games we've been getting results which is the main thing. We're top of the group at the minute but obviously we've got some tough games to come.

“Switzerland are a good team and we're going to have to be good with our shape. Sometimes they're going to have the ball and we're not going to be able to get it off them. We can punish them with some of the things we're good at. I'd take a 1-0 right now.”

Fifteen years on from Southampton, Crouchy’s former boot boy is a Premier League striker playing perhaps the best football of his career. Tomorrow night would be the perfect time for him to break his international duck.

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