Carving a career in the Big Apple
More exclusive insights from New York Red Bulls hit-man Luke Rodgers. Here he tells Kris Heneage about goals, unique fans, and naked interviews...
What a difference this month has been from the last time I spoke to you guys. I’ve not only been playing football again, but I’ve also been scoring goals. I managed to get my first against FC Dallas, which was nice: after a spell out through injury that first goal is always important.
From there we had Real Salt Lake at home a few days later. I know I’ve stressed before just how competitive this league is, and that anyone can beat anyone, but I think the game against Real Salt Lake really proved my point.
Obviously in the wake of that 3-1 defeat, Rafa Marquez said some things that were picked up, and made big headlines. I know it’s not nice to critcise team-mates but I think sometimes it can be very difficult because of how quickly you have to speak to the media here.
They’re in the dressing room immediately after the game while you’re getting changed. That means you don’t get that time to calm down like you would in England, so sometimes you may say something you regret.
I mean, imagine Manchester United losing at Old Trafford and you stick a camera in front of Sir Alex Ferguson’s face: he’s going to say something different than if he’s had that 10-15 minutes to himself. The important thing is that we had a team meeting the next day and everybody left happy.
Three days after that we had the Portland Timbers, who are a bit crazy. I say that because at their home games they have a lumberjack pitchside that slices up a tree when they score. We have our own super fan though, he’s called ‘Jonny Toro’. He actually dresses up like a bull. I mean glued-on horns, ring through the nose – the lot.
The fans out here really do love their football. It’s great to see them get involved, especially doing something as unique as that. Jonny (real name John Russo) has met all the lads and I gave him one of my shirts for his birthday.
Toro with Luke (he's the one on the right)
We started October off with a draw in Toronto. I know it wasn’t a win, but we’d have taken it back in early September if you’d offered us three wins and a draw from five games. Especially because one of those victories came against the favourites for the MLS Cup, LA Galaxy.
I know I joked about scoring the winning goal, but to be honest a win was the most important thing. I was buzzing after I scored though, even though I should have had two. As a team we’re really starting to pick up form which is good. Thierry and me are starting to click up front which always helps. He’s been on fire lately and made it two in two against LA, so hopefully he’ll continue that on.
Luke bags against LA (photo courtesy Jim McCue)
Robbie Keane missed the game against us because he had international duty with the Republic of Ireland. We’ve got a real mixture of nationalities and actually had five or six lads that flew out the morning after the LA game to places like Jamaica, Mexico and Senegal. I’m a big England fan and I watch the games. In terms of career dreams I’ve had, playing for my country is up there with playing for Birmingham City…
Away from football, I’ve been checking out a few bookshops for things to read. While I was recovering from my injury, I came across a book on jewellery. It tells you how to identify quality gold and diamonds so you aren’t getting ripped off. It just interested me at the time so I decided to buy it and do some reading up on it. I like to learn and try new things and in a place like New York that’s really easy to do.
Soon we'll know for definite if we’ve made the play offs. You might not believe me, but I’m not really nervous as I think we can do it. We set ourselves up with some great results during September and I think with a squad like ours, the play offs should be the minimum we achieve. We’ve got two games to go, and if we can win both of those it’ll give us a great foundation and hopefully more things for me to tell you about...
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