Keith Fahey relishing his new challenge at St Patrick’s Athletic
Midfielder signs one-year deal with no mid-season escape clause
Keith Fahey returns to his old haunt of St Patrick’s Athletic: “There is only one club for me in Ireland and that is St Pat’s.” Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
For a professional footballer like Keith Fahey the distance between Birmingham City and Bushy Park is almost immeasurable. Certainly it’s far more than the couple of hundred miles that a map might suggest; they’re simply worlds apart.
Fahey, who won the League Cup with City at Wembley in 2011 and was still playing competitively for Ireland more than a year later, knows all about it.
Released by the Championship club at the end of his contract last summer, he has been completing his largely solo journey back to full fitness at the public park not far from where he grew up in Tallaght.
He is, he admits, “a bit of a loner”, so the lack of a club structure and absence of outside pressure to get playing again had its compensations. Unfortunately, though, the park had its canines, which is just one more reason he is happy to be rejoining his old club St Patrick’s Athletic as it looks to build on last year’s title-winning campaign.
“Bushy Park . . . I like it there,” says Fahey with genuine affection. “There are nice hills there for different types of training (but) I had an experience a while ago; dogs were robbing my cones when I was doing my drills. You are trying to keep the head and a woman is trying to get the cones back from the dog and then another one comes over. That is when I started questioning it. I just said to myself ‘I can’t handle this anymore’.”
There can surely be few careers in the game that might more aptly be described by the term rollercoaster. Fahey went to Arsenal as a youth, moved to Aston Villa for a fee that suggested he was still regarded as a prospect but failed to make the anticipated impact and had to come home to start rebuilding.
He did that, in some style, and got away again but some good times at St Andrews have been followed by some difficult ones on the home front and now he is at it again: back at St Pat’s and itching to show what he can do all over again. For the moment, however, that’s an end in itself. “I’m not coming home to settle,” he says, “and I’m not coming home to go back. I’m not decided. I’m just coming back to settle for now and see how I get on.”
The important thing, he feels, is that after a series of setbacks (the most recent of them before Christmas at Sheffield United, where he was close to signing only for a dislocated toe to scupper things), things are moving in the right direction for him; there is the prospect of playing competitive football and for a club he clearly loves.
He had, he says, offers from both home and abroad but the overseas ones were a little too exotic at a time when he was trying to steady the ship a bit while “there is”, he says, “only one club for me in Ireland and that is St Pat’s”.
Narrowly missed out
Having narrowly missed out on a trip to the European Championships, Fahey might feel he has some unfinished business on the international front. Hower, the Airtricity League, on recent evidence, can’t be considered the most promising base from which to earn an Ireland recall, but Martin O’Neill had committed to taking in some of the league champions’ games even before he signed so he will get the chance to impress Giovanni Trapattoni’s successor.
For the moment, though, he insists that that’s not even on his mind. It’s about getting into the team then helping to improve it, he says, with the 30-year-old hoping to help younger players like Chris Forrester while, he maintains modestly, learning from them too.
For Liam Buckley, who Fahey contacted in order to flag his availability, the midfielder’s arrival, on a one-year deal with no mid-season escape clause, came as quite a Christmas present, but then it was the manager’s style of play that copper-fastened the player’s hunch that a Richmond return was the right move to make.
“I saw a couple of (Pat’s) games last season and liked the way they passed their way around. I’ve not played in an out-and-out passing side since I was with Arsenal as a kid and I’m looking forward to being encouraged to pass, pass, pass.”
And fresh from the delights of last year’s title success, the club’s supporters will be relishing the prospect of seeing him follow those orders.