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Dublin: 7°C Thursday 22 October 2020

'I wouldn’t say I was a stupid kid, but I made stupid mistakes'

Dubliner Richie Foran hopes his troubled past will help him succeed as the new manager of Scottish Premiership side Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Foran will start his managerial career in the Scottish Premiership with Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Foran will start his managerial career in the Scottish Premiership with Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Image: Jeff Holmes

DO YOU BELIEVE in second chances?

That people can change? It is easier said than done.

But Richie Foran is living proof that people can learn from their mistakes, mature as they get older and realise their potential.

If you had said ten years ago that Foran would be responsible for managing a football club in Scotland’s top flight, competing with Celtic and Rangers, most, if not all, would have ridiculed the idea.

For people not too familiar with Foran, you may be wondering why, back then, would him turning his hand to management seem a marriage destined for a nasty divorce?

Well, to say that the 36-year-old had a turbulent start to his career in football would be putting it mildly. In 2001, Foran was kicked out of the Irish U21 squad after breaking a curfew set by the team’s manager at the time, Don Givens.

Ireland had just lost at home to Portugal in an U21 European Championship qualifier but the Irish players were given permission to spend a Saturday night away from the training camp as long as they were back by 11.30pm — a request that was ignored by the then 21-year-old.

Just a few days before his Irish side were to take on Estonia to keep Ireland’s slim hopes of qualification alive, an irate Givens then stated he would never select Foran for international duty again, as long he was in charge.

“I will not pick him ever again,”  Givens said. ”I’m disappointed with what has happened because, when you put a bit of trust in people, you try to treat them like adults and they let you down.

“He is a talented lad but it is balanced out by a lot of baggage he could do without. He went on as a substitute (against Portugal) and I told him to just play his game and don’t get involved with anybody but, within a minute, he did.”

Foran, was still a Shelbourne player at that time and had finished the season as their top scorer. It wasn’t just on the domestic front that Foran was firing in goals, but in Europe too, where he scored twice against Rosenborg in the Champions League qualifiers.

Donal Broughan and Richie Foran DIGITAL Foran was named PFAI Young Player of the Year in 2001. Source: INPHO

At the time, the Norwegian side were regulars in Europe’s premier club competition, and had qualified for the group stages 11 times out of 13 seasons up to 2007.

But as well as topping the goalscoring charts, his name sat at the summit of disciplinary table too. The striker was sent off five times over the course of that season, with his indiscipline resulting in a six-game ban.

However, he still managed to arouse interest in Scottish Premiership side Aberdeen over the course of the season, but his bad behaviour within the Irish set-up reportedly cost him a move to Pittodrie.

Foran’s aggressive qualities on the pitch were intrinsic to the player he was though. He may not have been blessed with the talent and ability of other players who left the league, but his tenacity, determination and will to succeed on the pitch ensured even the most seasoned of defenders would know they were in for a tough battle against him.

Although the move to Scotland failed to materialise, Foran’s chance of playing in the UK was about to be revived by a certain Roddy Collins at Carlisle United, in the bottom tier of English football.

Foran may have been difficult for managers, but he was difficult for opponents too, and Collins was willing to provide Foran with the chance to prove himself in the Football League. The goals would continue in League Two, but so would the controversy surrounding Foran.

Bristol City v Carlisle United. Foran played in the final of the Football League Trophy for Carlisle at the Millennium Stadium. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

In three years at Brunton Park, he would pick up 31 yellow cards and three red cards, as well as two court appearances.

Foran was found guilty on those two occasions. The first case involved a brawl involving the striker, Carlisle’s Irish owner, John Courtenay and Lincoln stewards after Foran had been sent off along with two team-mates.

The following season, he was ordered to pay compensation to a man he head-butted in a nightclub.

Since being announced as the manager of Inverness, Foran has repeatedly been asked how he would deal with a young Richie Foran now? The simple answer is that he would be willing to take a chance, once the player was determined to work hard and learn from their past indiscretions.

I wouldn’t say I was a stupid kid, but I made stupid mistakes,” he tells The42. “I would run through a brick wall on the pitch. I would take a chance on somebody like me, once they are willing to learn from their mistakes.”

“I’ll be a no-nonsense manager, I will tell players when they step out of line. I will never lie, I’ll be straight and honest.

“I’ve probably lost out on losing some players this summer for being too honest, by not guaranteeing some players that they will start in the team. Nobody can be guaranteed to start.

“Sometimes you just need a break. Some managers don’t want baggage. When I was at Shels or Carlisle, nobody would have imagined me as a manager.”

Foran needed somebody willing to give him a second chance in the game after leaving Carlisle — and it came form the most unlikely of sources.

That person was Terry Butcher’s wife, Rita.

Foran’s agent had sent a DVD of the forward in action in the hope it will entice Butcher to offer him a contract in Scotland with Motherwell.

But having started to watch the DVD, Butcher set his mind to other tasks and left his wife to it.

When he returned, Rita insisted that her husband should sign Foran. “You should sign him – he’s really good,” Rita said.

It was only a couple years later that Foran heard that the story wasn’t fabricated by the former England defender.

“When I was initially told that story I thought he was joking, but I later found out it was a true.

“He was like a father-figure, he was hard on me when he needed to be, but I am better now because of it, and not just on the football side, but as a person.”

Foran would still test the patience of Butcher, pushing him to the limit. They say it’s easier to seek forgiveness than permission, and Foran knows all about that. During his time with Motherwell, he returned home to Dublin to play in a junior football championship final for his local GAA club St Joseph’s O’Connell Boys against St Vincent’s, without the knowledge of Butcher.

That decision failed to damage the pair’s relationship in the long-term, as Butcher knew Foran was maturing as a player and signed him for a second time — bringing him to Inverness.

Despite his success in his football career, you get a sense talking to Foran he regrets that he never got to chance to wear the blue of Dublin at Croke Park more than the green of Ireland in a senior international at Lansdowne Road.

“I did have a trial with the Dublin senior team. If it was professional I would have stayed.

“It’s my passion, it’s in my blood and I miss it. I liked the toughness — it was physical, giving and taking big hits, and I like the togetherness of the team.”

But football is still Foran’s main focus, and it has to be. He faces a big task in his maiden job in management.

Soccer - Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League - Celtic v Inverness Caledonian Thistle - Celtic Park Foran has been with Inverness since 2009 and has been given a four-year contract as manager. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Former manager John Hughes enjoyed unparalleled success with the club during his time in charge, winning the Scottish Cup in 2015 and finishing third in the league in the same season.

That saw the club play European football for the first time in their history. After finishing seventh last season, Hughes left his position after a disagreement over the playing budget for the season ahead. But Foran didn’t rush into accepting the job.

“I got the offer, but I did not say yes straight away. I needed time to gather my thoughts and think if the club ticked all right the boxes. I just needed a couple of hours to myself.

I have to be the right man and the job has to be the right opportunity. Some may say that I had to take it because the opportunity wouldn’t come along again, but that wasn’t the case.”

Foran, who only retired at the end of the season after enduring an injury-plagued couple of years, now has to make the transition from team-mate and friend to manager and authority figure.

“The transition has been quite easy. I haven’t played an awful lot over the last couple of seasons with the injury, so I’ve been doing some coaching with the development squad.

“I had been the captain of the club, so the players would have had respect for me then too. I think, even as a player, I have been fair, straight and honest. I would have always put my teammates first.

“But now I have to put some distance between myself and the players. There will be no more going out to play golf, going for coffee or a few beers. You have to keep a distance but not be a recluse at the same time.

“The manager should always have control. When I speak people will listen, there needs to be respect there.”

This weekend, Foran will take charge of his first competitive game – against League Two side Cowdenbeath in the League Cup. And it’s a challenge that Foran can’t wait to take on.

“We need to excite the supporters, go out and attack, be more direct at times and not to be afraid to have a shot on goal to get bums off seats.

“Players will have the freedom to express themselves. We’re not going to be able to go through every pass (on the training field). Players will make mistakes, that’s part of the game.

“There are no targets just yet. We’ve a really talented squad. I think it may be unwise to set targets, I trust the players.”

Foran believes one of the most important aspects of the job will be to recruit the right type of players, but scouting the League of Ireland for players is not high on the agenda, just yet.

But he has already signed one Irish player – 20-year-old Dubliner Jake Mulraney from QPR.

“It’s all about the players. I’ve spent lots of time in the office trying to get the right players into the club. We have four so far. We’re looking to get to get two or three more.

“To be honest, I haven’t watched a lot of League of Ireland since I’ve been over here. I’m sure there are players that could come over and step up.

“From what I’ve heard from players and managers is that the Scottish Premiership would be a step up (in quality).

“It may not be a popular opinion, but if a player got an option of joining a League of Ireland club or club in the Scottish Premiership, they would pick the Scottish club. It’s also a way to get a foot into British football.”

With a dearth of Irish managers in British football at the moment, Foran feels he needs to make his most of his time with Inverness.

“I would say there are a lack of positions. There are a lot of talented managers out of work.

“I know there were 50 to 60 CVs that came into the club in the first few days when the position was open.

“But I think I got what I deserved for staying loyal. I’ve turned down other clubs, if you stay loyal, rewards will be given.”

Just how big that reward ends up being, remains to be seen.

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About the author:

Shane Costello

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