Tour 2014 - Rohan on Toronto
22 July 2014|Tottenham Hotspur
Having played professional football in nine different countries during his career to date, our well-travelled former midfielder Rohan Ricketts has become something of a Michael Palin of the football world!
Since 2010, the 31-year-old has turned out for Diosgyori VTK of Hungary, Moldovan side Dacia Chisinau, SV Wilhelmshaven of Germany, Ireland’s Shamrock Rovers, Dempo in India, Ecuador’s Quevedo and most recently PTT Rayong in Thailand.
One country and one city, though, stands out on Rohan’s adventures around the world. Between 2008 and 2009 he played some 39 MLS games for Toronto FC, scoring six times, and became something of a cult hero at BMO Field in the process. In turn, Ricketts took both Canada and Toronto to his heart.
“Toronto is fantastic,” confirms Ricketts, who is talking to us from the Ontario capital where he has recently become father to a baby boy. “It’s a very multicultural place and the people are very welcoming here. There are so many different things to do in the city and there’s just such a good quality of life for people who live here. Football is taking off rapidly here too.
“Toronto FC has a super fan base, good crowds and there is quite an English feel to matchdays in terms of the way the supporters get behind their team. There are a lot of Europeans and South Americans living in Toronto and I think they bring the vibe of watching football in their own countries to Toronto FC games.
“I spoke to Jermain Defoe recently and he’s absolutely loving it in Toronto. It’s very hard not to fall in love with the city, the sports, the concerts, the outdoor life, the places you can go away to for breaks just outside the city – it’s amazing.”
Ricketts started his football career with Arsenal and was part of their young side that won the FA Youth Cup in 2000 and 2001. When he moved across North London to sign for us in 2002, he became just the twelfth player to play for the first-teams of both the Gunners and Spurs. He became a regular in our starting line-up during the 2003-04 season, playing 28 matches for us that campaign in all competitions and scoring twice. His first goal came in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa at White Hart Lane on November 23, 2003, that also saw current LA Galaxy forward Robbie Keane net for us.
“The Aston Villa goal is a really strong memory for me,” smiles Ricketts. “My family were in the stands watching and my sister was in tears when the goal went in. I really enjoyed the goal I scored away at Coventry (September 24, 2003) in the League Cup too, but that will always be tinged with a bit of regret as it kind of marked the beginning of the end for me at Tottenham.”
Ricketts would find his first-team opportunities limited after the departure of then-manager Glenn Hoddle and left White Hart Lane in 2005, having played a total of 36 competitive matches for us in all competitions, scoring twice. He subsequently played for Coventry City (loan), Wolverhampton Wanderers (loan and permanent), Queens Park Rangers (loan) and Barnsley before leaving England for the MLS in 2008.
In 2011, Ricketts was back in N17 wearing the colours of Shamrock Rovers, as the Irish club visited us for a UEFA Europa League clash on September 29, 2011. Stephen Rice gave the visitors the lead five minutes after the half-time break, only for us to reply with three goals in the space of six minutes after the hour mark through Roman Pavlyuchenko, Jermain Defoe and Giovani Dos Santos. Then in the 73rd minute, Ricketts got the moment he had dreamed of – appearing back on the White Hart Lane pitch as a substitute for Ronan Finn.
“I got told to warm-up during the second half,” recalls Ricketts. “I was the last substitute to come on and beforehand I was nervous, not about coming on but actually the worry that I wouldn’t get to come on!
“The reception when I came onto the pitch was incredible – applause from all four stands. I felt like a kid – just this pure enthusiasm and emotion came over me. I could have cried with the ovation I was given, but I didn’t because I felt so much power and pride in the fans’ reaction too. It was just amazing, a beautiful feeling and one of the best I’ve ever experienced in football.”
During the 2011-12 season, Ricketts spent two-and-a-half months training with our first team to maintain fitness in between leaving Exeter City on April 16, 2012 and signing for Dempo in India on August 20, 2012.
“I got loads of complements from the likes of Tim Sherwood, who used my ability as an example to the young players but also to demonstrate the realities of football when talented players struggle to get the club they deserve,” says Ricketts.
“The likes of Harry Redknapp, Kevin Bond and Clive Allen all said nice things about my application and ability in training and so many Spurs first-teamers struggled to understand why I wasn’t playing in the Premier League at the time. But when you’re without a club, finding a new one can be extremely difficult and it has been very frustrating for me not to be playing at the level I think I deserve to.”
At the time of writing, Ricketts is again looking for a new club, having left PTT Rayong at the end of the season. He is still passionate about demonstrating his footballing talent in a strong, competitive league and making a living from the game. There are some prospective options on the table for him to consider from clubs in Asia at the moment.
In the meantime, Rohan is busy being a new dad and editing his own online magazine called Column 10. The Clapham-born player has also published an e-book called Passion for Football – Things to Know From Youth to Pro, which gives advice to young players hoping to make it as a professional and features interviews with former Spurs including Darren Bent, Tom Huddlestone and Paul McVeigh.
There could be another book on the cards too, telling the story of Ricketts’ travels around the world and the 15 clubs he has played for to date, not to mention the experience of winning eight caps for England Under-18s and six for England Under-20/Under-21s.
“I’d like to call it The Nomadic Footballer – Have Boots, Will Travel!” laughs Ricketts. “Having the time to put the book together has held me back so far and I’m also wary that I don’t put a lot of hard work into it myself only for someone else to benefit more financially than myself. I’ve also got the idea of putting some football books geared towards kids together, so it’s a case of watch this space.”
Rarely one to stay still, be it in his football career or with his business interests, Ricketts’ next move is sure to happen as quickly as the footwork he used to leave defenders trailing with in his prime as a player here at Spurs.
By Andy Greeves