LOI Arena is the new podcast about the League of Ireland and Irish football from Con Murphy, Conan Byrne and Pundit Arena.
On the eighth episode of LOI Arena, former Liverpool International Academy coach Dave Rogers discusses scoring against Hajduk Split for Shelbourne, playing alongside a young Wes Hoolahan and how his fascinating coaching journey has brought him back to Ireland looking for his next challenge.
This week’s guest was former Shelbourne defender Dave Rogers. Rogers scored for Shels in their famous 2-0 win against Hajduk Split in the 2004 Champions League qualifiers and played alongside some of the league’s greatest ever players including Wes Hoolahan and Joey Ndo.
Since hanging up his boots, the Liverpudlian has embarked on an extraordinary coaching journey across the globe. From Liverpool’s International academy to the Indian national team and from the Indian Super League all the way to FC Arizona, Rogers has accumulated a wealth of experience in the game and now hopes to take on a new challenge that bit closer to home.
Dave Rogers on scoring that famous goal for Shelbourne against Hajduk Split.
Shelbourne’s 2-0 win against Hajduk Split in the 2004 Champions League qualifiers is considered as one of the greatest results in League of Ireland history and Rogers was at the heart of it. After coming away from the first leg with two away goals in a 3-2 defeat, Pat Fenlon’s side only needed a 1-0 win at Tolka Park to advance to the next round.
The all-important goal arrived after 78 minutes courtesy of this week’s guest Dave Rogers and a 90th-minute effort from Alan Moore secured the shock result that sent Shelbourne through. That night understandably stands out as one of the highlights of the centre back’s career.
“No matter where I go, every conversation, I’ve always spoken about that Hajduk Split goal,” said Rogers on Episode #8 of LOI Arena.
“What people don’t realise is that Eamonn Collins was our assistant manager at the time and at the end of every training session Eamonn would love to finish with a bit of crossing and finishing and a bit of shooting. He’d bring in every player so whether you were a defender, a midfield player, a fullback – you’d always go over to him and do a bit of finishing.
“On the Monday or Tuesday before the game we trained at Tolka Park obviously and we were finishing with some crossing and finishing and I’m not kidding, with my right and left foot I was putting volleys in on Monday and Tuesday and I remember some of the lads, I think Ollie Cahill said to me, ‘Rogie, try keep one of them for Wednesday night will ya?’ so it was surreal that.
“The big thing for me was that even though the goal went in and we made history – it was the fact that there was so many League of Ireland fans from all around the country, the whole country came together.
“Different clubs, different flags and scarves in Tolka Park, that’s the memory for me. I think that’s what showed me what makes the league so special. People come together for the right reasons and you can have your rivalries and your bit of banter and I loved the banter myself but that showed me that night that people really cared about the league.
“It didn’t matter whether it was Shels, Bohs, Pat’s, Rovers – people came together as one and I think that’s what makes the league so special and that’s what makes the league so strong on and off the pitch. In those times they’ll really come together and really stand up for eachother.”
Dave Rogers on Wes Hoolahan and playing against Deportivo de La Coruna.
Up next for Shels were Spanish giants Deportivo de la Coruna. The La Liga side reached the semi-finals of the Champions League the previous season in 2003/2004 before getting knocked out by Jose Mourinho’s Porto. Shelbourne were always going to be up against it but Rogers says his teammates embraced the occasion and in the end produced another incredible result in the first leg.
“Amazing, absolutely amazing. Ollie Byrne obviously wanted to play the game – and god love him again I love him to bits – he wanted to play the game at Lansdowne Road and I remember us as a group of players, I remember us saying ‘Ollie no! We want to play at Tolka. We want to get them onto the small pitch and onto the tight field, get them into where they won’t have experienced anything like this. We’ve done it to Split, we’ll do it to these boys as well’ – but obviously we saw the bigger picture.
“There was financial gain for the club if we got a sell-out at Lansdowne Road but again, it was just a surreal experience. You’ve got Pandiani, you’ve got Luque, Diego Tristan, Romero, Andrade from Portugal, Valeron, Victor. Just a surreal experience but we went in full of confidence. We didn’t fear anybody. We had such a strong bond and a strong work ethic within the group that we were just, it was one of them where we knew, whoever we came up against, if they weren’t on it that day, we were after them.
“I will never forget Wes Hoolahan – his performance at Lansdowne Road was just one of the best performances I’ve seen from a League of Ireland player. I think he ran the show, he got Man of the Match.
“I think from that moment on we all even as teammates stood back and said ‘Jesus, Wes has a chance here. He has the chance to go onto much much bigger things’ and thankfully for him and thankfully for us being his teammates that’s the way he went on as well.
“But yeah, phenomenal experience and just seeing how close we got to the group stages, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Dave Rogers on his fascinating coaching journey including a role at Liverpool.
Rogers enjoyed a memorable playing career in the League of Ireland and his coaching career has so far been every bit as interesting.
In 2013 he was appointed as Liverpool FC’s International Academy coach and his work for the club in India led him onto new opportunities – first as assistant manager for the Indian national team and then as head coach of Indian I League side DSK Shivajians FC. In 2019 Rogers took over as manager of FC Arizona in America’s fourth tier and says he is grateful for all the experience he has attained on his travels.
“I wouldn’t swap it for anything. It’s educated me unbelievably, not just on the field but off the field. It’s developed my life skills, it’s taken me out of my comfort zone which is something I always wanted to do – not just as a player but as a coach as well.
“Even as an Evertonian how could you reject working as Liverpool International Academy Manager? It was strange putting on the kit at the time, the red kit and you’re looking at it, it was a little bit surreal. But it’s an amazing football club to be a part of, I was only on my UEFA B license when that opportunity came around.
“Getting the chance to be assistant manager for the Indian national team, going on to win a SAFF Cup. I’ve worked with international players and it’s a phenomenal experience. Developing players that I still speak to regularly all over the world that are playing professionally and doing really well for themselves – that’s job satisfaction.
“Taking over at DSK Shivajians in India where I signed Shane McFaul. Shane will tell you it was a really tough challenging time because we never got paid for six months. So when you’re manager of the team and players aren’t being paid and they’re banging on your door, crying into your arms – no coaching qualifications can prepare you for that.
“You need to have the right people around you and I had great staff around me who supportered me and the players were phenomenal. We stuck together, we went on to win a cup and we came sixth in the league. So I’ve done my groundwork and I’m proud of that.”
Dave Rogers on his desire to take on a new challenge in his coaching career.
“I love a challenge and I’m not afraid to take a risk as you can tell with all the stamps I’ve got on my passport. It’s been phenomenal. I want to keep getting better, I believe I’m good at what I do, I’m really good at making players better, I leave clubs in a healthier place. I’ve won things but I want to keep challenging myself and I want to keep progressing and the only way to do that is to embrace whatever comes around the corner and face it head-on and do it with pride and integrity.”
After years of travel, a return to the League of Ireland is firmly on Rogers’ radar. The 45-year-old says he still follows the league closely and would ‘absolutely’ take the chance to manage in the league if the offer was right.
“The League of Ireland was very good to me and my career as a player. I watch it regularly, I watch it weekly. I’m always up to date and it’s a place where I know if I get the right club and the right opportunity…listen, first of all, I know what I’m good at, I believe in what I’m good at and I know I could make a huge impact to any club that would come in and offer me the opportunity to take over. If I’m sitting here now saying ‘do I want a job in the League of Ireland?’ then absolutely.
“Absolutely, I feel as though I could bring a freshness, an enthusiasm, a new sort of direction. There’s a lot of good people in the League of Ireland: volunteers, fans, players, coaches and all those people are a credit to the league but I also feel the league could improve from every angle on and off the pitch.
“It’s one of them places that’s close to my heart and obviously with my family, and moving back home in the next week, I’m ready for an opportunity that could come along and I definitely believe I could go and improve and make better any club that wanted me.”
LOI Arena is the new home for great League of Ireland discussion. Each week Con and Conan will take to the mic to analyse the highs and lows from the Greatest League in the World. The lads are joined by great guests each week who share a passion for all things LOI and Irish Football.
Episode 8 of LOI Arena is available to listen to here.
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