By Alan Finn
As long as football has been a professional sport, generation after generation of young hopefuls have often been met with a devastating dilemma of considering their future when it becomes apparant they won’t play first team football.
A 20-year-old Chris Rutherford was forced to think about life after football when Cardiff City opted to let him go after five years with the club, but ultimately he was not prepared to give up on his dream of playing the sport he loved.
While Cardiff decided not to offer the defender a route to first team football, opportunity beckoned with a former teammate who opened a door for both him and another player looking to pick their careers back up after being let go by the Welsh club.
“A lad called John McClelland was released around the same time as me, he went playing for Walsall and ended up going to Leeds and Rangers and got over 50 caps for Northern Ireland and it was that connection that helped because he knew scouts in Belfast who were looking for ex-Cardiff players who might fancy a move to Ireland and from there myself and Graham Fox ended up signing for Sligo Rovers.”
Billy Sinclair was the manager who took Rutherford and Fox under his wing. Despite spending much of the last five years as a forward, Sinclair recognised Chris’s potential as a defender. The rest, as they say, is history.
“Billy played with Chelsea and Linfield and you knew he was a man who knew what he was talking about. He was the type you knew was thinking about football 24/7.
“I played up front and on the wing for Cardiff and it was only in my last couple of months there I switched to centre-back, so coming here I still had plenty to learn about playing there and after every training session Billy would keep me behind for extra heading practice, teaching me how to tackle, all the skills I needed, he really went out of his way to make me the player I was.”
For the full interview with Chris, see this week’s Sligo Weekender newspaper – in shops now!
Alternatively, you can purchase an online edition here