Thursday 27 October 2016

Florida's just fine for Seán

AS SOMEONE who had to wait three years between his first call-up to an Ireland squad and his first cap, Seán St Ledger has grown accustomed to the need for patience.

And that's why he's confident that, despite a slow start to his career in the MLS with Orlando City which has restricted him to a handful of appearances, the USA is still A-OK.

St Ledger, an ever-present for Ireland at Euro 2012, is the forgotten man of the Irish game. Even since his move to MLS side it's not gone completely to plan as, before last night's game away to DC United when he started in a 2-1 defeat, St Ledger had not played in six weeks.

There are compensations, not just the tan one picks up from living in Florida but also the idea of going to work alongside someone like Kaka ("The best player I've played with at club level") every day, and for the ex-Preston man, worry's not on the menu

"It's frustrating not to play every week because I came over here to play. It's the manager's decision who to pick, but we're only a few games into the season, I have to bide my time to get my chance, and make sure that when I get a chance I do enough to stay in the team," St Ledger told The Herald.

"I have plenty of time, I'm not at all worried. The sun is shining, there's a blue sky when you're on your way to training, I am loving it here."

Once he completed his move, St Ledger would have earmarked next Sunday, and the meeting with Robbie Keane's LA Galaxy, as a key game on a personal level, although recent injury problems for the Ireland captain means that any meeting of the two Ireland team-mates will probably be done off the field, though St Ledger's return to the starting XI last night gives him a good chance of featuring on Sunday.

"I don't know if Robbie will play but it does seem that Galaxy are missing him at the moment, it would be nice to play against him. It's a big game for us, by the start of this week we'd sold 31,000 tickets and they're expecting to get 50,000."

Keane and St Ledger are the only Irish internationals in the MLS now, though more are on their way. Kevin Doyle has completed his move to Colorado Rapids while James McClean could well be signed up by New York Red Bulls.

St Ledger would recommend the MLS experience to anyone but there are difference from the English club scene, obviously. "The travel is hard to get used to," he says. "We're in Washington this week, a two-hour flight and you're not used to that for a domestic game. But the crowds here are great, we have been averaging 30,000 a week. When I was at Preston and Leicester we didn't get crowds like that.

"The fans are appreciative," he added. "We haven't won at home in the league yet and the fans still come out in their droves, if an English club had gone five home games without a win the crowds would have dropped off. It's just the American culture to get behind the team, in England you're more likely to get slagged off.


"We went to Portland, 90 minutes before the game a lot of the Portland fans were already in the ground as they wanted to see Kaka, they were cheering and applauding him. If Steven Gerrard went to Stamford Bridge I don't think the Chelsea fans would be clapping him, to say the least," he smiles.

Exposure on TV with Sky Sports would help to remind people in the FAI that St Ledger has not fallen off a cliff, and the arrival of Doyle (and possibly McClean) would also help him reignite his Ireland career.

"I've never given up hope of playing again but I need to get my club career sorted first," says St Ledger, who last played for Ireland against Poland in 2013.

"I haven't played much club football in the last year so I can't go shouting my mouth off about not being in the squad. If I get playing here on a regular basis then I can ask questions, but I can't argue for a place in the squad if I'm not doing well at club level, and having lads like Doyler out here will do me no harm."

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