Back from old Blighty
There was a familiar face at the ground last Saturday evening when Lismore Richmond Rovers and Goonellabah squared off in the 2010 grand final replay at Bill Harris Field in East Lismore. Former Rovers captain Joel Saye arrived back after being in Europe for the past year where he enjoyed some travel and managed to get a taste of football, English style.
Saye found himself playing with Birstall United in the Leicester League. The tall strapping central defender was enjoying the experience of a European holiday doing some travelling when he decided to find a club to play some football. It was no surprise that his services would be gleefully embraced and although Saye needed to adjust to a different type of English dialect amongst his team-mates and being described as a “centre half”, he found the experience a rewarding one. Stereotyped as a defensive player when he played in the Football Far North Coast competition, his new manager saw a different role for Saye in some games, as he pushed the big man up front where his speed and height proved very successful. Joel said that the conditions for playing and training were extremely difficult, with icy pitches, snow and cold like he had never imagined, causing the occasional match to be cancelled.
The style of play was described as similar to the local competition with a 1-4-3-3 or 1-4-4-2 being the common structure. The most significant differences that Saye recognised were the passion of supporters at all levels of competition, the professional approach and the opportunities to play in a more diverse competition due to the sheer number of players, plus more favourable geographic accessibility. Saye also commented on the grief that match officials cop, saying that they tolerate a bit more than around here, but does not agree that this is a good thing for the sport. There was also a chance to play with and against some former EPL players and he even met up with former local lad Cale Johnstone, who is also playing in that region.
Returning to this area has been welcomed by his former club Lismore Richmond Rovers and although Joel waits for an international clearance, there is no guarantee that he will see out the whole season. Work is high on the mind of this likeable young man and with family in Wollongong, he may be tempted to head south. Although Saye’s football experience in England was brief, it was also a good gauge of how this region has and can produce talented players who are capable of making the grade in other parts of the world.