When they come to write the definitive history of Tottenham Hotspur, Rohan Ricketts is unlikely to merit more than a footnote. Yet White Hart Lane will offer him a sentimental welcome tonight, when he returns with Shamrock Rovers for the sort of match that brushes the Europa League with much-needed stardust.
It helps, of course, that the League of Ireland side, Ricketts’ latest employers in a bizarre, peripatetic career, will offer minimal threat, even to a team of Tottenham tyros. He is unlikely to play more than a cameo role in what should be a straightforward defeat. But his wider significance is in the lesson he offers any young player who thinks he has it made.
Ricketts was that soldier. On his last Spurs appearance at the Lane, he gave a man-of-the match performance in direct opposition to Steven Gerrard. He was on the fringes of the England squad. His decline was swift, and salutary. Wrong choices, in his personal and professional life, took their toll.
Is he a wasted talent, a wayward loser? Or is he a role model, for anyone who believes life is an excellent adventure? Fittingly, for someone who has consistently split opinion, the answer is a bit of both.
Ricketts tried his luck at Wolves, QPR, Barnsley and Coventry, to no avail. He played in Major League Soccer with Toronto, and the German Fourth Division with Wilhelmshaven. He hit rock bottom in Hungary, where he had four coaches in three unpaid months with Premier Division club Diosgyori, and Moldova, where he feared for his safety because of the murky characters associated with the game.
His blogs, while he played for Dacia Chisinau, were compelling. He remains unafraid to break professional convention, and speaks openly about football’s seamier side. Money, he acknowledges, distorts personalities and destroys principles. He’s a journo’s dream, and has been an unavoidable presence in the build-up to tonight’s match.
The limelight won’t last. He speaks of building a media career in Canada, where he feels most at home. You wish him well, and hope Tottenham’s young professionals will not make his mistakes, in trusting the wrong people at the wrong time.