The next seven days could all but secure European football for Shamrock Rovers in 2018.Sun, Sep 24 2017
Karl Sheppard reckons nothing can stop Shamrock Rovers this season.
The 21-year-old striker returned to the Hoops on transfer deadline day on a six-month loan deal and insists he is delighted to be back in Tallaght after a frustrating spell with Reading.
Sheppard signed with Brian McDermott’s side after netting 15 goals in 35 appearances as he helped Rovers to the Europa League group stages in 2011.
Since then though he has played little football and an unsuccessful loan spell at Accrington Stanley tied in with injuries has not helped.
Now he is ready to get back to concentrating on his game and he sees no reason why Rovers won’t win every competition they enter this season.
“I’m happy to be back, it’s nice to feel wanted again and to be part of a team, I was frustrated the last six months,” explained Sheppard to Extratime.ie.
“We have to go out to win everything this season. I don’t see why we shouldn’t because we have a big enough squad to do it.
“I just want to pick up were I left off with Rovers and start enjoying my football again. Getting back into the team will have to be my first aim though.
“Lads like Stephen Rice are winners. I’m sure he didn’t take last season too lightly. He hates losing 5-a-side never mind actual matches, so I’m sure he and the rest of the squad will want to win everything they can.
“When I went over to Reading I was a bit unlucky. I had a long season with Rovers and then picked up an injury that left me out for six months.
“I went to Accrington on loan and I really didn’t enjoy it. It’s hard to put my finger on where it went wrong there but I wasn’t happy off the field and that probably showed on the field.”
Karl Sheppard in action for Shamrock Rovers (Image by George Kelly)
New Hoops boss Trevor Croly wasted no time in luring Sheppard back and the striker admits he missed lining out in the Hoops – he even watched most of the games on his computer last season as Rovers finished a disappointing fourth and ended the season without a major trophy.
“I sent Trev a text when he got the job to say congratulations and he asked me would I be interested in coming back,” said Sheppard.
“I told him I’d play it by ear and with two days left in the window there was a chance something may have happened with an SPL club but I wasn’t going to wait around. I got on the phone to Trev and he said he would ask the board to get me in.
“Last season I watched pretty much every game online when I could and I suppose a bit of me did miss it.
“I was getting a bit homesick watching the games, it was a strange one because I enjoyed watching the games but it made me homesick.”
Sheppard first made the move to England as a 16-year-old with Everton but he never settled and returned to the League of Ireland in 2010 with Galway United under boss Sean Connor.
The Ireland Under-21 international reckons he made the move across the Irish Sea too soon and would advise any Irish kid looking to make a name in the game to stay at home for as long as possible.
“I was definitely more equipped now,” he said. “When I first went over to England I was still only a kid and I wasn’t used to being away from home.
“It was hard to adjust to the way of life. The best part is going into training but it’s the time to kill after that’s the hard thing.
“I’d tell younger players to stay and get games in at League of Ireland level. Look at Pierce Sweeney, he was in the league and then went to Reading and he’s doing well.
“Managers in England would probably agree with me that it’s a better experience playing first-team football over here."
Sheppard’s loan deal is due to expire in July but that could be extended depending on how the season goes.
The striker will have one year left on his contract when he gets back to Reading and admits he is unsure what the future holds for him.
“It’s a difficult one at the moment,” insisted Sheppard. “Reading have strengthened their squad quite a bit. Hopefully I can have a good spell here and then I’ll have a year left with Reading to fight for my place.
“I’ll have to play it (extending the loan) by ear, I’m just thinking about playing at the moment and when July comes I’ll worry about it then.
“Brian McDermott told me that I’m going back to a massive club and that I need to work hard and get some games in.
“I don’t regret moving, I learned a lot over there and hopefully that will show in my game now.”