Eamonn O'Keefe Talks Blackpool
Hi Eamonn, firstly, your wonder goal against Chesterfield - talk us through it...
I remember it being a must-win match to 'peg' Chesterfield back as they were the Division leaders at the time. Ian Britton knocked a ball out to me wide and, as I cut in, the defenders seemed to back up and back up until, at about 25-30 yards, I fancied myself so I let fly. It was a sweet strike and one of the best in my career - both to win the three points and also to keep us in contention.
What was your favourite Pool match and why?
My favourite Pool match was Darlington away. I scored the second with my left foot but the team that night just clicked into gear and, considering Darlington were bidding for promotion, it was a great game to be involved with. Blackpool supporters were unbelievable that night - thousands travelled to the match.
Who was the best Blackpool player that you played with?
I really liked Alex Dyer as a player. I thought he had a lot to offer - if anything his problem was probably a lack of self-belief and confidence but I thought he would develop and that we would be reading about him forever. Added bonus was that he was a smashing lad.
Which characters did you particularly enjoy playing with during your spell with the Pool?
I have to say my best mate Michael Conroy. We met at Blackpool and, although he now lives in Cork, he regularly comes to Portugal. I signed him when I was Manager of Cork City along with Phil Harrington, a goalkeeper you may remember at Blackpool. It's a funny world because, by being a Manager and signing these two changed their lives completely too, as they both ended up staying on in Cork. Also, Mick Walsh - now in Spain (with his milk-bottle complexion - God help him... he'll be like a great big grilled tomato) - and David Windridge (the Miller).
What did you do when you had to retire through injury? Did you think of going into coaching or management?
I became Manager at Cork City. I love Sam Ellis to bits but, when I was injured and had 18 months left to run on my contract, I wanted to get involved in the management side of things - after all I certainly had the experience having played at all levels, from non-league to International level - but Sam didn't see it like that. I wonder if he saw me as a threat...? Actually, it still bugs me today how Boards of Directors appoint Managers who have 'experience' but who, in my eyes, have not actually achieved a high enough level of success to justify their appointment. I would have (and still would) - given the opportunity - like a crack at that level! Watch this space...
With regards to the injury, how disappointing was it to suffer a career-ending injury at such a young age?
I was distraught - especially as I was in the middle of a great goal-rush at the time. The truth is, I thought I would be given time to heal but, with insurance issues etc, the club decided to pay me up. I felt very low. But it came back to haunt them later when I scored for Chester against Sam Ellis (it was personal then!).
Ever been asked to or considered becoming a scout?
No - but if I was in management I would contact all ex-players and tell them to keep their eyes peeled for any good youngsters in their area - it makes sense to me.
23 goals in 36 games whilst wearing tangerine - can you pinpoint any one thing that made your spell at Blackpool so prolific?
As soon as I arrived at Blackpool I found that there was a group of players with the same winning mentality that I had experienced at Wigan Athletic (where we also won promotion). You can touch it - ask any player who has won honours... it was a strong self-belief coupled with the supporters getting right behind me from the minute that I arrived.
Did you really forget that you were playing for Chester when you scored 'that' goal at Bloomfield Rd?
No. I went looking for Sam Ellis to give him some stick... They sacked him a few weeks later. Don't mess with me Sammy boy!
What's the funniest thing you remember most from your time with Blackpool?
Paul Stewart got some unusual fan-mail from a male supporter saying that he wished to meet with Paul as he had a crush on him and that, if he was agreeable to meeting him, that he was to give a signal when leaving the pitch at half-time. The signal was for him to pull his tangerine top out over his shorts as he left the pitch. No guesses as to what Walshy, Conroy and myself were trying to do as we were leaving the pitch - he never forgave us!
Squires Gate - proper training ground or the pits?
Sorry - the pits. My opinion is that the training ground should resemble, as near as dammit, the home pitch. Size, etc, even the kind of grass - it could mean the difference between a point to win the league or a point to stay in the league. Use every advantage that you can.
What attracted you to living in Portugal and have you been back to Blackpool since you left?
I had been visiting Portugal for 20 years and I just love it. The people - both Portuguese and the ex-pat community - are so warm and friendly. The pace of life - and weather! - are so different and I have also become involved with a company that sells property to mostly British and Irish clients. We arrange accommodation and show clients properties that match what they tell us they are looking for. This can be quite varied because some are looking for property to live in for all or part of the year, others are looking for a holiday home and then you have some who want to buy property here as an investment. We also have a specialist mortgage department for those people who don't want to, or can't afford to, pay for their property outright. Obtaining a mortgage here is still very easy and normally cheaper than back home. A really exciting part that my wife, Lorna, is getting involved in is the plans for, over the coming year, to have our own Interior Design service - this is really good from my point of view as it will enable me to play golf whilst she is out all day! If anybody is considering buying property over here, they can check out the website at www.monarchpropertygroup.net and I will be more than happy to make time to meet with any Blackpool fans who contact me via that website!
Have you managed to get to many 'Pool games since your retirement, up until your move to Portugal?
Unfortunately not as many as I would have liked but my wife and I have been invited to several functions and when we are over in August for my brother's wedding we will make a point of trying to take in a match. With TV and internet, the world of football has become very easy to follow so, even though I now live in Portugal, I don't miss much!
Do you think the standard of football across the English leagues is better or worse than when you were playing?
I think the standard is different. The game has changed and the training, physical development and healthy eating, etc, have become a massive part of it. I think we would all have benefited from this regime but I also think that most could easily have held their own in today's game. I'm not sure though whether some of today's 'softies' could have coped with some of the tackles in my day...
Do you think players were more disciplined on the pitch, ie. players did not dive to con the referee, during your playing days?
If we dived it was generally to get out of the way otherwise we would have had our legs broken! I think we went down the same but the television has exposed frauds and now players have to be very careful or they risk trial by camera, etc. But that can only be good for the game.
Are you jealous of the pay packets players pick up today in comparison to the wages of your heyday?
Too right I'm jealous! People who couldn't lace our boots getting daft money - I wouldn't mind if they could all play well... Seriously though, the demands and the agents do frustrate the life out of me.
Any thoughts on how the current Blackpool side is progressing in the Championship?
It's my belief that after a promotion you have to dig in and make some foundations for a year or two. Timing is crucial, improving your squad and, most importantly, giving more priority and resources to developing a youth team to die for that either helps the club to improve it's position - or who are instead sold on for the good of the club. It's business and you have to get used to it.
Finally, which players, alive or dead, would make your dream 11?
Carlos Alberto - Vidic - Moore - Evra
Ronaldo - Bechenbaur - Charlton - Best
Law - Pele
Sub: Mike Davies (to liven up the changing room with a few jokes/ stories!)
Thanks to Eamonn for taking the time to talk to us, and thanks also go to Tim Lord, SeasideEssexXile, Pete Moore and Eamonn Moore for the questions.
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