Sligo Rovers have sometimes found themselves with players and managers who are years ahead of the curve.
One such man was at the helm for one of the club’s most memorable periods when Billy Sinclair guided the club to the League of Ireland title in 1977.
Sinclair, who prides himself on professionalism, had a lot of work to do in changing results as well as lifestyles.
One of his first missions was to source a new breed of player from outside of the League of Ireland, and thus, a new batch of soon-to-be legends arrived.
“I was constantly looking for new players. I was contacting the PFAs [Professional Footballers’ Association] in Scotland and England all the time to see who was out of contract. The lads I brought in were professional, you didn’t have to worry about them, they trained in the morning, sometimes trained in the evening.
“The character of a player is very important to me, I got on the phone to the likes of Chris Rutherford, Graham Fox, Gary Hulmes and Alan Paterson among others, I knew straight away that these were lads I wanted to bring to this club.”
Sinclair’s charges enjoyed a mid-table finish, away from the relegation that often threatened them in years prior. The club hailed his achievement, but he felt this was only the beginning of something great.
“I remember one night I was asked to attend a board meeting. My first thought was that my time was up here, but I went along and there was about 20 people there and as I walked towards my seat, they all stood up and applauded me. They said that this was the first time in years they didn’t have to go to Dublin toa apply for re-entry to the league. We did well but I told them that I knew this team was capable of more, we had to keep them and that was the start of it.”
For the full interview with Billy, see this week’s Sligo Weekender newspaper – in shops now!
Alternatively, you can purchase an online edition here