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Friday 21 September 2018

'Danish move was a dream despite injury nightmare' - says Foley

Former Ireland cap Kevin Foley played in Denmark for FC Copenhagen, where current Danish international Thomas Delaney was a team-mate. Photo: Sportsfile
Former Ireland cap Kevin Foley played in Denmark for FC Copenhagen, where current Danish international Thomas Delaney was a team-mate. Photo: Sportsfile

A bunch of fives is likely to be the welcome given to a player in the rough and tumble of England's lower leagues.

So Kevin Foley, the former Ireland international, was surprised to be handed a bunch of flowers, on the pitch, in front of his new team-mates and supporters, as his introduction to life as a footballer in Denmark.

Now 33 and playing non-league football with ambitious side Billericay (Jermain Pennant is just one of the team-mates there with Premier League experience), Foley looks back with a great deal of fondness on his time as a player in the Danish league, an injury-scarred six-month spell in 2015, with FC Copenhagen.

His time there, reduced to just four league appearances due to a shoulder injury which he could not shake off, was a memorable one, for varying reasons.

"When I signed, I was presented on the pitch before my first game, there was a massive bouquet of flowers to say welcome to the football club. That was strange, but a nice touch," says Foley, adding that Copenhagen and their way of treating people left a lasting mark.

Thomas Delaney Photo: Getty
Thomas Delaney Photo: Getty

The men he played with in his brief time in Denmark have also stayed in his mind.

At least four of Denmark's possible starting XI for Saturday (Thomas Delaney, Nicolai Jørgensen, Andreas Cornelius and William Kvist) were team-mates with him in Copenhagen, Foley a fan of them all but Delaney (now Werder Bremen) in particular.

"When I got there, I knew nothing about Delaney, other than the fact that he had an Irish surname. I chatted to him about it but he never classed himself as Irish, he said it was Irish descendants way back and he saw his roots as American. He laughed when I asked if he was Irish," says Foley, who made his senior international debut under Giovanni Trapattoni in 2009 and was capped eight times.

"From the first training session with him I was impressed, he was really fit, a box-to-box midfielder, has a good left foot, and he is a team leader, he was captain when I was there even though he was young, he was bossing younger players around and he leads by example, I rated him really highly and I knew it was only a matter of time before he moved on to bigger and better things.

"Werder Bremen are a big club but I'd have loved to see Thomas come to England. He is big and strong, he likes to get stuck in and he would have been a really good signing for a Premier League team."

Foley is aware of how much attention the Irish camp, and media, have placed on Christian Erisken but the former Ireland defender sees threats outside of the Spurs man.

"Eriksen is the one everyone knows about but they have at least one other class player, Nicolai Jorgensen, I was really impressed with him," says Foley of his former team-mate, now at Feyenoord.

"He is good on the ball but his body strength is something else, he will give as good as he gets. Same with Cornelius, he's not as talented as Jorgensen but is stronger and if Denmark play a direct game they will be real outlets for them, so Ireland will have to be on their toes."

Foley has not been in Ireland squad since he was (cruelly) cut from the squad before Euro 2012 but he would feel at home in Saturday's match venue.

"We played our home games at the Parken Stadium, it's a nice venue. Not many of our league games were sold out but when we played Brondby in the cup final it was red hot, it's like a cauldron when it's full," he says.

"It's a great place to play in but I'd have my doubts over what the pitch is like at this time of the year, they usually re-lay the pitch after Christmas so it will be interesting to see what it's like for Ireland."

Foley's time at FC Copenhagen was cut short by injury, a shoulder problem he picked up in pre-season and he was unable to do himself justice, returning to England to play for Ipswich, Charlton and Coventry, before this year's move to a very ambitious Billericay.

But he loved his time there.

"Even when I left, and I was disappointed with how it had gone for me in terms of injury and playing games, the whole team and staff went out for dinner, the manager got up and made a speech to thank all the players who were leaving," he says.

"It opened my eyes to how a club can be run and with the little touches, they showed a real bit of class, that I haven;t seen in the hustle and bustle of English football where players come and go and you never get to reflect on what's going on but I really appreciated the way they treated me. That is the club where I was treated the best in my career, the city is fantastic, I loved it."

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