The Ex-Files: Shane Supple Wednesday, 23rd Jan 2013 09:00
With Town's U18s having been in FA Youth Cup action at Derby earlier in the week, the fourth part of our series The Ex-Files – in which we talk to figures from Town’s past – sees Blair Ferguson catch up former keeper Shane Supple, who was a key member of the side which won the trophy in 2005.
Three years ago Shane Supple made a decision that most football fans, myself included, struggled to comprehend. Quitting professional football at such a young age may have made minds boggle but after reading and now hearing the reasons you begin to understand the decision and ultimately how he is a happier person for making it.
At the age of 15 moving to a different country can be challenging, especially into the high pressure world of professional football. Supple explains his own experience.
"It was very exciting, it was difficult moving away from home but it was alright after a while,” he said. “There was a good bunch of lads there and Bryan Klug who was a very good coach and a very good manager, it was very enjoyable I have to say.”
During his time at the academy the Dubliner won the 2005 FA Youth Cup against a very strong Southampton side including the likes of Theo Walcott, Nathan Dyer, Adam Lallana and recent Town signing David McGoldrick.
When asked how they managed to it he starts off with a laugh: "Mainly luck! We had a good team spirit but on paper they were the stronger team.
“From the first round to the final we had a lot of luck but we had some good games in between. It was a mixture of luck and team spirit.”
Making the step up to the first team meant serving under Joe Royle and Jim Magilton, who had differing managerial styles.
Shane in action in the FA Youth Cup final
"Very different, obviously Joe was a lot older, more experienced and had been around football for a very long time and a very high level,” he explains.
“And then you go to Jim who had just finished playing and coming into a job that was very new to him and he played with a number of the players that were there and that was obviously difficult because of the change of relationship.
“Looking back on it now I think he was under a lot more pressure than Joe would have been and maybe had a different mentality, towards the players as well.
“I think Joe was a bit more easy going and easier to get in with, but they both had good qualities as well as bad, but they were two very different managers.”
When quizzed on which style he preferred the Irishman laughed and said: "The style I was playing probably!
"Under Joe I played the majority of my football at Ipswich and it was enjoyable. I did enjoy it under Jim, I looked up to Jim as a young kid when he was a player and I was very friendly with him and I’ve got a lot of respect for him.
“It's hard to say who was my favourite, you could look at it playing-wise and say under Joe because I played a lot more games, so maybe Joe but I really enjoyed it under Jim and maybe given another couple of years he might have been able to do something, but it wasn't to be.”
"I didn't really want it to come across that it was just at Ipswich Town, I think it's an issue at other clubs, especially in the lower tier of the Football League.
“You know if things aren't going so well at the club then maybe certain players are brought in for the wrong reasons and their attitudes aren't the best."
Although this was the main reason for him leaving, there were others which contributed to his decision to walk away.
"There wasn't just that reason, but I didn't want to be around that for the rest of my career. I wanted to get home, I missed home but probably the main reason was I just didn't enjoy the people involved in football and the players, their attitudes maybe.
“Who’s to say it wouldn't have been different somewhere else? Maybe it would have. I didn't see too much of a difference when I was out on loan.”
Supple's approach is in a way refreshing. After all, if any of us didn't like the people we worked with or the industry we worked in we would probably leave as well.
As he talks you get the impression he hopes his actions show that not all footballers are only there for the money.
"Yeah, I hope so. I think it was [refreshing], there are a lot of good players out there and I'd say good people who play the game and play for the right reasons and obviously it's a job at the end of the day. But I didn't ever look at it like that, it was always something that I loved to do.
Shane saves as Town win a Carling Cup penalty shoot-out at Shrewsbury the week before his exit
“I think it probably was refreshing, it's not often something like that happens in the game, I'm probably one of very few who have taken that step.”
Having made the decision to leave the final step was to walk into then manager Roy Keane's office and explain. You may be forgiven for thinking the response would be one which might have led to Supple staying, but this wasn't the case.
"I think he was gobsmacked,” the 25-year-old recalls. “I don't think he saw it coming, I don't think anyone saw it coming really.
“He sat down and chatted to me for a while, I told him the reasons and he understood them totally and respected the decision and said he would help anyway he could.
“It made the process a lot easier for me and I was very fortunate with the way he dealt with the situation, but he was very surprised as most managers would be.”
Most of us would think that with three years having passed any sense of regret would have started to set in but Supple still stands by his decision.
"No, certainly no regrets. I still keep in contact with certain people over there, certain players I’ve played with but it doesn't really come up, I don't really think about it. I'm enjoying what I'm doing and I don't have any regrets at all. "
Regrets about leaving Ipswich and getting back into football are two different things but the Irishman has a firm stance on ever getting back into the game.
"No, definitely not. I made the decision and even if I was tempted to get back in I wouldn't, I always said that that was it for me. I'm sticking to my guns and I’ve got no inclination to get back in. I look for the results every Saturday other than that I don't miss it at all.”
Since returning home to Dublin Supple has been playing Gaelic football for his local parish side St Brigid's and has been selected to play for his county at a sport he feels is played purely for the love of the game.
"Yeah, it's good. I'm training like a professional really. You've got the job in between it as well because you don't get paid for playing for Dublin, that's the difference.
“It's a different mentality I suppose, players do it for the love of the game really and the pride of playing for their county.
“It's a totally different scenario really, one that I think people in England don't really get, but Irish people have been brought up to understand. It's very enjoyable and I love it and I'm still playing in goal and I love playing in goal.”
In between training and playing Supple works for a sports management company which leaves him with little free time.
Former Blue George O’Callaghan once said that Supple was well into his cooking, leading to claims he might have pursued a career in that direction after his retirement, but as he explains that was more out of necessity than anything else.
"It's hard to find the time nowadays really with working and playing. I don't have as much free time in my hands as I did at Ipswich.
“I think it came out when I was living with George because I looked after myself, did the right things and ate the right things but it wasn't really a love of cooking it was that I had to feed myself.”
Something often overlooked when it comes to talking to Supple are his best memories of life at Portman Road. The tone of his voice lets you know that there were times when he enjoyed being at Town and the answer, as you would expect, refers back to that game against Southampton in 2005.
"Winning the FA Youth Cup was a special night,” he recollects. “We were underdogs and we went and did it at home in front of the home fans, it was a very special night.
“It was great for the likes of Bryan Klug to get the recognition he deserved for all the hard work he put in with the young lads.
“Making my debut for the first team away to Leicester was a special day as well, and one I’ll always remember.”
Fair play to Shane, he is a man that sticks to his principles. This would be a good story for all young players starting out on their careers to read and consider.
When you take a step back and look at modern football from a wider perspective, there are so many stories of drugs, gambling, match fixing, greed, depression, racism etc that pop up on a daily basis. And Im sure what we see and read is only the tip of the ice berg.
For me personally I have fallen out of love with the game of football. but dont worry I'll always support the Blues!
To be fair, most of that Youth side played some sort of professional football -
1 GK Shane Supple 2 MF Sammy Moore 3 DF Michael Synnott 4 DF James Krause 5 DF Chris Casement 6 DF Aidan Collins 7 MF Cathal Lordan 8 MF Liam Trotter 9 FW Darryl Knights 10 MF Owen Garvan 11 MF Liam Craig Sub FW Danny Haynes Sub FW Blair Hammond Sub FW Charlie Sheringham Sub MF Ed Upson Sub GK Andy Reynolds Sub DF Stuart Ainsley
Great interview, and it is not only players like Shane who got fed up with the attitudes of some footballers in the last decade - I'm the last of my lot to go to Portman Road, some of my relations go and watch Needham Market (and do seem a lot happier for it) and in one instance the rugby club! If only someone could start a GAA club in Ipswich maybe we could lure Shane back, I have seen it played on the west coast of Ireland and it really is a lovely skilful athletic and fast flowing game - much better tha the hurling I think.
No better expose about where the ITFC went wrong. The club ethos died when Evans arrived and we started chasing instant promotion. Short-term fix after short-term fix, mercenaries replaced home-grown improvers. Hopefully now we are returning to what we do best: player development, both our own and under-appreciated talents from elsewhere. Players who are already financially secure for life are ill-suited here, they come to sleepy Suffolk to kick back and pick up a pay cheque. For the first 4-5 years of Evans' tenure, our team was full of them. Never again.
Fair play to Shane he didnt like what was going on and was man enough to walk away,I wonder what he would make of the likes of Jet and Chopra,not being bothered and being just downright lazy.We could do with you back here Shane we have Dot Cotton in goal these days and he couldnt keep a clean sheet to save his life
So basically Irish amateurism is bad and English professionalism is bad.
People are people and I’m sure that if 24/7 blanket coverage of footballers was in place in the 1950s then the negative stories about football we have now would have been reported back then with people being shocked and disgusted.
As out of sync as this might sound I’m positive most footballers absolutely love what they do – sure some are greedy but back in the 1920s, 50s, 70s when footballers weren’t that well paid were did the money go? In the boards back pocket or in some brown envelop hidden underneath a mattress.
I think it's really interesting that he said he didn't like the people involved in football. From a very early age these young men are superstars at there age group and where they come from. It must be hard to keep your feet on the ground and not become arrogant. Everything is done for them and its a bit of a bubble. They are often praised to the hilt and maybe believe the hype. Bit of a generalisation I suppose but may be a factor in the type of personality of the professional player.
I live relatively close to the Castleknock area where his GAA team is based. St Brigids are considered on of the top clubs in Dublin and he is their keeper, and as such he is in contention for selection for the Dublin county team which is the pinnacle of the game. While it is an amateur sport it is far from amateur in the amount of commitment, levels of fitness and preparation it requires, so "amatuerism" might not be the way to describe it (okay thats the discription of how GAA selection works).
As an Irish ITFC fan I obviously loved the fact that SS was a young up-and-coming keeper for us, and was sorry to hear when he decided to pack it in. But this is a great interview and for a (still) young man he shows great maturity and understanding and he is obviously happy with his decision.
Good luck with the Dubs Shane and best wishes in your new career.
Brendan, I'm just wondering what Marcus taking over has to do with the attitudes of players that were there long before he came, with the behaviour being reflected across the leagues at other clubs too. Those are the reasons for him leaving, none have anything to do with Evans.
P.S. If I see one more comment about Chopra not caring I'll realise just how ignorant some fans are.
I was gutted when Shane left Ipswich. He seemed to have everything you'd want in a good keeper - solid, mature, head screwed on, great reactions and command of the area. I was intrigued by the speculation as to why at the time. This interview puts it into context. Shane explains his decision without naming or blaming anyone, which for me is why he seems such a top guy. Long may he continue to do well in his career.
A big thanks from me to Blair and TWTD for doing these Ex-Files interviews. I'm loving them. Brilliant.
I always felt that we expected more from him than we got. This is not a criticism, more a statement of fact. We look for the best in every position; we are rarely satisfied with what we've got. There's always someone better out there, somewhere. Footballers are paid huge amounts of money and are expected to suffer the abuse of supporters when things don't match expectations. Shane deserves plaudits for walking away from this circus. But there is still a part of me that says to give up a career in a game that most of us can only dream of is just crazy. I just hope that when he gets to an age when he can't do it any more, he doesn't have any regrets.
Good luck Shane in whatever you do. You will always hold a place in the ITFC history.
Always a fan. One of the most naturally gifted keepers I've ever seen - I remember seeing a game at Luton we lost 1-0, in which Supple kept the score down by making a string of seriously world class saves.
I can't wait to see him in the Dubs goal, but he's in the unfortunate position of being behind Stephen Cluxton, widely acknowledged as being the best keeper in Gaelic football, in the queue.
I admire Shane Supple so very much. He was a man of conviction and he had a very old head on very young shoulders when he decided to quit. He believes in the doctrine that principles can be costly but without them life is very cheap. Well done my man!