Russell: Sky is the limit for Saints
FULL-TIME football as we know it in Ireland is dead -- but St Patrick's Athletic midfielder John Russell believes that the Saints can still win trophies and win fans over with their style of play in the new season.
The 2012 League of Ireland campaign was formally launched in Dublin this morning ahead of the first round of matches next Friday.
Some observers cast their minds back to the launch of the 2006 season, when seven teams were effectively full-time (Bohemians, Cork City, Derry City, Drogheda United, St Pats, Shelbourne, and Sligo Rovers) and current internationals like Seamus Coleman, Keith Fahey, Stephen Ward, David Forde and Pat McCourt were all lining out in the LOI.
In 2012 only Sligo Rovers will be technically a full-time club as outfits like St Pats have to make do with a part-time structure. For players like John Russell, that means taking a drop in wages and also adjusting to a working life outside football, but the Galway-born player believes that success can still come.
"I was full-time with Sligo for the last two years but I will be working outside of football this year, if I can sort something out," says Russell, who left Sligo at the end of last season and was tempted to Incichore by Pat's boss Liam Buckley.
"The way the league has gone -- the way the country has gone -- full-time football just wasn't sustainable.
"I was lucky enough to be full-time for two years but I think you have to try and combine the two aspects now, work and football, as there is no stability in the league.
"As it stands, full-time football in Ireland is gone, unless the finance comes back into it at some stage, but you have doubt all the time, players having to sign on the dole when their contracts are up.
"In going from full-time to part-time I will be taking a cut in wages but I hope to be able to get a job. I have a degree in commerce from NUIG, I have a background in HR so I'd hope to get something sorted," added Russell, who says that the style of football planned for this season at Pat's was one of the reasons he joined.
"At Sligo I enjoyed two good years under Paul Cook, we played good football there in that time. Paul always encouraged us to play football that way and Liam Buckley had the same approach when he managed Sporting Fingal," added Russell.
"I think the fans at St Pat's will really enjoy this year. I feel that with the players we've signed and the way we will play under Liam Buckley, the fans will be excited. If we can hit the ground running in the first series of games, you never know what can happen."
Russell had a disrupted start to the season. He missed the Saints' first game at Cliftonville through suspension and was then sent off on his Pat's debut in the home leg of that tie. "I don't think the Setanta Cup tie has been kind to me. I was sent off not long after coming on as a sub for Sligo against Shamrock Rovers last season, and then I was sent off again this year. I hope people know I'm not a dirty player," he says.