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Sunday 22 October 2017

'Where have you been for the past year?' - New recruit Hogan reveals his first meeting with Roy Keane

 

Republic of Ireland's Scott Hogan during squad training at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland's Scott Hogan during squad training at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

A long and frustrating courtship by Irish football of a promising striker with Carlow roots brought some satisfaction at last when Scott Hogan trained with the national team, our national team, for the first time.

The Aston Villa forward, who came up through the ranks of the non-league scene in England , is still trying to get his head around the financial aspects of the game and how his life has changed, how a player who at one stage earned £30 a week in pocket money from his club while attending a college course was then sold for £12million.

And as he has scored just once in 23 league games for Villa he is still in the bedding-in stage at club level, Hogan admitting "it hasn't gone great since I went to Villa".

But Hogan maintains that he was always serious about playing for Ireland.

Doubts

Even Roy Keane had his doubts. Hogan bumped into the Ireland assistant manager at Manchester airport yesterday morning as the pair prepared to fly over to Dublin. Hogan says he was honoured to meet the player he idolised as a United supporter, but what did Keane say to him.

"He just said "hello" and "where have you been for the past year?" joked Hogan.

Now 24, he denies that the long, long wait (three years) in between Ireland's first approach and his first training session yesterday was not down to indecision on his part but merely waiting until he was full fit following a serious knee injury while at Brentford.

"I've never had any intention of doing anything other, playing for anyone else or anything like that," former Rochdale and Brentford man Hogan said after his first session with the Ireland squad in Dublin yesterday.

"I always wanted to play (for Ireland), because I always wanted to play. People play for England, Scotland and Wales and they're happy to get in the squad and get the call-up - I want to play football for Ireland.

"My dad's side is Irish, there's a big family back in Carlow. It is part of my life so there was never any consideration of waiting for something else, it was just solely I want to get back playing football."

He says that U21 call-up, while at Rochdale, went unanswered due to logistics, and then an injury.

Fresh interest in Ireland was sparked in a spell at Brentford, Hogan surrounded by Irish-born players like Alan Judge, Alan McCormack and Jon Douglas but Hogan delayed as he was still unsure about his long-term fitness once he'd completed his rehab.

"I've always spoke to Judgey about it and Judgey's the one who said 'just tell the manager this is what you want to do, he'll understand,' and this is when I said 'look I want to get my season under my belt' and he was saying 'just do it, he'll understand, he'll understand' and he was brilliant, he understood my situation and he was totally compliant with it."

So Hogan finally joins up with Ireland, a player with a £12m price tag on his head, a world away from his spell in the non-league scene after his 2010 release by Rochdale, a club he would rejoin in 2013.

"A lot of people I knew around there used to go around the non-league scene, playing for cash in hand, and I also did a lot of work - warehouse jobs, shelf-stacking, cleaning, recycling vans. I did everything," he says.

"But I knew that the only thing I was OK at was football, so I just kept playing and kept playing and I gave my job up one summer to go and train in the gym.

"I thought I'd go and train in the gym and see what I'd make of it, and it led to me signing for Rochdale and from there, it wasn't a snowball effect, it was sort of the opposite, I suppose," he says, adding that he'd give the weekly stipend of £30, for attending a college course on, ahem, Football Studies, to his mother because she was the one driving him around.

"I have not come from a great background. We got by and stuff," he admits.

"Sometimes when I am a bit down - I'll be honest it has not gone great since I went to Villa - I come home and my girlfriend, family and friends say, 'remember you are a £12m player. Someone has paid that much money for you'.

Sensible

"You are just thinking, you have had five years playing non-league football and it sort of picks you up a little.

"The transfer fees nowadays are at that level but I think it was only the summer before that players from the Championship started going for that sort of money and for me, at Brentford, or me at Rochdale, I was at clubs where both were low budget clubs in low budget leagues and I kept thinking: I am just a lad who wants to play football, I am not worthy of that kind of money.

"I never had money so you don't want to lose it. The family keep me grounded. The family live near where I am, I have my girlfriend.

"We are sensible, we are not stupid, I am more of a go-home-sit-in-front-of-the-TV and watch football type of lad, rather than the go out and do whatever type. Being paid to be a footballer allows us to do nice things, allows us to live in a nice house near home, it allows us to do things we never could. I don't take it for granted and I never will."

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