David McGoldrick ready to repay Mick McCarthy in goal currency
Striker has reached promised land of Premier League, and hopes to score for Ireland
David McGoldrick at Republic of Ireland squad training on Monday: ‘I want more and I feel good, I feel hungry and that’s the main thing.’ Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
It is simple stuff, but it meant a lot to David McGoldrick when Séamus Coleman stopped by to ask him what he thought of Chelsea the other day. His has been a long and winding journey to the promised land of the Premier League and, though the rewards are many, it is the new-found respect it brings amongst his peers that seems to matter most right now.
“Over the years, I’ve come here and been asking the Premier League players about this game and these players,” says the 31 year-old, who was one of a full Ireland squad to train on Tuesday. “Now I can partly join in the conversation, which is a nice feeling. That’s one of the main things I’ve enjoyed: people asking me how did I think Chelsea were; the fact that it’s not me all starstruck asking, ‘what was that player like?’”
That casual chat with Coleman was essentially office talk, but the Premier League is quite an office and McGoldrick might be forgiven for having feared he would never quite make it inside.
When the pair were still teenagers it was McGoldrick you would have backed every day of the week to be the bigger star. Southampton paid Notts County £500,000 for him at just 16 and he joined the likes of Gareth Bale, Adam Lallana and Theo Walcock in an academy set-up that was carving out a reputation for itself as a conveyor belt of talent.
At Southampton he was clearly regarded as a rising star but was still expected to clean Peter Crouch’s boots
“It was the best youth team in the country,” he claims even now, and McGoldrick was one of the ones widely reckoned to be going places. He never suspected for a moment back then that it would take him 15 years to reach his intended destination.
Currently in the process of copper-fastening his status as a Premier League starter and regular for the Republic of Ireland, McGoldrick is cheerful and entertaining as he looks back on it all now. At Southampton he was clearly regarded as a rising star but was still expected to clean Peter Crouch’s boots, for which he got an extra £40 a month plus an extra £10 for every goal the striker scored.
“I think he scored 15 goals so I got a few extra tenners on top,” he recalls, smiling. “Christmas time, he came and asked did I want a bonus or did I want him to take me on a night out. I said, ‘I want a night out with Crouchy,’ so I went on a night out with Crouchy, he got me drunk and I went home. Was it a good night?
“A great night,” he laughs.
Crouch, like all the biggest stars, departed and the club’s fortunes dipped. In the Championship, McGoldrick became a regular over time, then had a stint at Nottingham Forest where he lost his way a little and had to endure a succession of loan moves before eventually making the acquaintance of Mick McCarthy and moving to Ipswich Town. Fourteen goals in 31 Championship games that first full season was one of several big turning points in his career.
Another came last summer when a history of injuries deterred most of the clubs weighing up whether he was worth taking a chance on. When Sheffield United got beyond that point, McGoldrick knew he had to persuade Chris Wilder of his potential. With McCarthy’s help, he did, and the 15 goals he scored last season played an important part in the club’s promotion.
There are players who have broken through at 31 who have then had three, four or five good years
He owes the Ireland manager, he knows, for all the faith, respect and loyalty extended and sounds these days like a man who believes it is finally in his gift to repay the debt in full. International goals, are, of course, the preferred currency. “It’s just waiting for one to go in,” he says after running through some of his close calls, “and once one goes in I think more will come.”
Little time to waste
Beyond that, he acknowledges, he has precious little time left to waste. “There are players who have broken through at 31 who have then had three, four or five good years,” he says.
“Rickie Lambert came into it late and he scored goals and got an England call-up later in his career. Glenn Murray is scoring goals now and I want to do the same. I obviously want to establish myself as a Premier League player first and get games and goals. I’ve only had three starts. I want more and I feel good, I feel hungry and that’s the main thing.”
In the meantime, he has never looked or sounded more at home over the course of his stop-start international career, joking about how the likes of his clubmate Callum Robinson “has a good football brain” but is “a bit of a dope” away from football.
There are laughs among the reporters, in part because the affection shines through; the respect too for another player who is suddenly proving he has what it takes to make waves in the Premier League.
McGoldrick has finally made it this far but there is always another point to prove.