Danny Ventre: 'Captaining Sligo to the title was my best moment in football'

Fri, Dec 22 2017

Ventre won the FAI Cup three times with Sligo as well as lifting the league title. Credit: Andy McDonnell

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Liverpudlian Danny Ventre was instrumental to Sligo Rovers’ impressive trophy haul during the 2010-2013 campaigns – captaining the Bit o’ Red from central midfield more often than not.

 

These days, Danny is lead foundation coach at Blackpool, while playing at semi-professional level with Droylsden in the Northern Premier League Division One North.

 

Unsurprisingly, however, it was leading Sligo to their first Premier Division in 37 years, back in 2012, as the personal highlight from a long career in professional football.

 

“[It was] probably my best moment in football,” Ventre tells extratime.ie.

 

“I was extremely proud to captain the club, but skippering a side to the title was something else.

 

“We were top the whole season and every team raised their game, but we just saw them off and took one game at a time. We had a great blend of players and ages that season.

 

“We also had the most gifted footballer to ever grace the league, in Joseph Ndo. What an honour it was to play alongside him. His ability, experience and demanding of high standards made the team tick.”

 

After beginning his footballing journey with Chester City, Ventre joined Accrington Stanley in 2005.

 

He tasted immediate success as a 19-year old by contributing to a Conference National title and entry into the English Football League as a result:

 

“2005/06 was great for me as a first-year professional. I improved so much as a footballer and was lucky to play my part in winning the division.

 

“Looking back now, I didn’t realise how fortunate I was at a young age to be playing in the first team at such a physical standard.”

 

The following season, Danny went on loan to Southport. Upon returning to Stanley, he forced his way into the first team, only to suffer an injury which kept him out for a considerable period.

 

“I felt it came at a bad time for me. I had just been called back from my loan to play. I participated in five or six matches in the league and then had a regretful fall, which fractured my leg.

 

“I missed the rest of the season, bar one or two of the last games, then was released. If not for the injury, things may have been different, but that’s football and it brought me to a place where I was very successful, in Sligo Rovers.”

 

'Very successful' seems like an understatement, as although the midfielder had to wait a few seasons for his and the westerners’ first piece of silverware together, a trio of subsequent FAI Cup triumphs and the Premier Division title were soon to follow.

 

Upon capturing that maiden winner’s medal for the 2010 League of Ireland Cup, were Ventre’s foreseeable expectations then wildly exceeded?

 

“I knew just before that league cup win that we were building towards achievement. Paul Cook was starting to mould a team, while implementing his style of play.

 

“New players took to Cookie’s tactics and free-flowing football almost instantly and it was very enjoyable to play in.

 

“We would go into games knowing that we were going to overcome. We were on a wave and got better every season, going on to win the league and three FAI Cups in my time.”

 

 

Danny left for Derry City towards the end of 2013, spending a solitary season with the Candystripes.

 

Cartilage surgery meant an eight-week absence towards the end, but he regained fitness in time for the 2014 FAI Cup final, which culminated in a heartbreaking 0-2 loss to St Patrick’s Athletic.

 

“I enjoyed my spell at Derry. It’s a great club, with fantastic people staffing and supporting it. They had top players, like the late Ryan McBride. What a footballer he was to play with.

 

“You knew when it got tough that he would be right behind you, sticking his head in where it hurts and throwing his body on the line.

 

“Losing that final was hard to take after I worked so hard to get fit, plus I made an error for Pat’s opener after misjudging the spin of the ball.

 

“I kind of knew my time in the League of Ireland was coming to an end and eventually moved back to Liverpool after that season.”

 

Reappearing on home soil, Ventre declined full-time offers, opting instead for part-timers AFC Telford United, with an eye to a future away from playing.

 

“This was quite difficult, as I’d always been in full-time football and didn’t know any different. Being November, I couldn’t sign for anybody in the UK until January.

 

“It’s mid-seasom. Budgets have been spent and squads are full unless there are a few injuries, so I found it hard to find a club.

 

“Having played my last game in November, managers are a bit sceptical signing somebody who hasn’t performed in two months and hasn’t been seen for seven years.

 

“A couple of full-time clubs offered terms, but it wasn’t financially right. It’s the best job in the world, but just to say I play football full-time and get poor wages, doesn’t add up.

 

“If I was five years younger, maybe I would have accepted, but I had to think forwards. I had already done my B Licence and started coaching with Matthew Blinkhorn at Blackpool FC’s academy, while playing part-time.

 

“For a little period before Blackpool, I was doing deliveries for a postal firm, while I was finding my feet back home.

 

“As it stands now, I’m Lead Foundation Coach at Blackpool. I’m loving the coaching and the experience I’m gaining, while still playing semi-pro for Droylsden.

 

“I still think there’s a couple of seasons left in me at that level. Hopefully in that time, I’d like to think that I could climb up the coaching ladder and see where it gets me.”