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.
"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.
“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.”
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