Madden wants to be more than just a jersey boy

YOUNG Bohemians hotshot Paddy Madden is relishing the opportunity of sharing the pitch with one of the game’s greatest marksmen when an Airtricity League XI take on Manchester United in football’s inaugural outing at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow.

“I always watch him,” says the 20-year-old Dubliner of Wayne Rooney. “His all-round play, his link up play, his will to work for the team. I love that about him. He’s not an individual player, he’s a team player. Sure, I thought he would have knocked a few goals in at the World Cup, but he’s been top notch all year.

“Players of Rooney’s calibre are allowed a blip in form too.”

A self-confessed United fan, Madden is also looking forward to pitting his wits against Nemanja Vidic.

“Hopefully one day, I’ll get to play against players like him regularly,” says one of the league’s brightest rising stars. “It will be a good test to play against probably one of the best centre halves in the world. Hopefully the first of many.”

Preston and Inverness are just two of the clubs who have recently been keeping a close eye on Madden but the player insists he won’t be distracted by the ‘shop window’ aspect of tomorrow’s big occasion.

“I treat every game the same,” he says. “As for scouts, I’m not worried about them. If I play well, I hope to be in England someday but for now I just want to concentrate on playing well for Bohs and trying to win games.”

Madden says he fancies getting Rooney’s jersey after the game but, by the sound of things, he’ll face some stiff opposition from a few of his own teammates. Even Liverpool-supporting Gavin Peers admits he’ll be on the hunt for a prized souvenir, although he’s quick to add that he “really supports the team that pays my wages.”

The Sligo Rovers defender explains: “A few of my mates are United fans and they’ve been on to me to try and get autographs and Rooney’s shirt – obviously he’s the biggest name.”

But Peers is really more interested in what the presence in Dublin of such stellar names might do to help lift the profile of the domestic game.

“This game is good for getting the league out there and hopefully it will push on and get bigger and better,” he says. “Full-time is the way forward and it’s getting better every year. Potentially, this game can help give it lift-off. We’re playing against supposedly the best team in the world. It’s a chance to show how good we can be.”

The historic aspect also appeals to a man who already knows a bit about making football history in this country.

“I was part of the history of the opening of the Tallaght Stadium as well and got a goal there (in Sligo’s 2-1 loss to Shamrock Rovers),” he reminds you with a smile, “so it would be nice to get a goal in the Aviva too, wouldn’t it?”

The Airtricity XI squad, under manager Damien Richardson, trained at Gannon Park yesterday. Sporting Fingal’s Shaun Williams (bruised foot) sat out the session but should be fine for the game and, otherwise, there are no injury concerns for the hosts.

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has promised to field a strong line-up. “Rooney, Park, Carrick and Vidic are back in training and are doing well,” he told the club’s official website. “(Antonio) Valencia is also training well and needs a game. All of them will be involved and Chicharito (Javier Hernandez) will also be part of the squad.”

The manager has also confirmed that Republic of Ireland duo Darron Gibson and John O’Shea, who is set to skipper the side, will play in the match. With 24 hours still to go before kick off, the FAI say that close to 40,000 tickets have already been sold.

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