Rohan Ricketts: Talentspotter
5ft 10in/11st 3lbs
Manchester United. They appealed to me growing up because of the way they brought through the youngsters like Beckham, Scholes, Butt and the Nevilles.
Johan Cruyff, Pele and Diego Maradona. That’s down to my Dad and my brother. They would always be playing the old World Cup videos in our house. Maradona’s solo goal against England, Pele’s dummy round the keeper, the Cruyff turn (which I’ve now perfected!)... they all lodged in my mind from a young age.
At 10, I started playing for a Sunday League team called Mottingham Youth in South East London. The coach, Bill Golland, has contacts at Arsenal and he put five of us forward for trials. I was one of three taken on. I went through the ranks at Arsenal, turned pro at 17 and won two FA Youth Cups in a row (2000, 2001). But last season, I wasn’t getting a chance to play for the reserves and it got me down. Players like Junichi Inamoto and Edu were picked ahead of me no matter how they played. So when Spurs came in for me I jumped at the chance. They haven’t got millions to go out and buy a Vieira, so it’s up to me... and my aim is to get into the first team this season.
I’ve played for England Under-17s, U18s and U20s and I’ve got 16 caps in all. My most memorable game was a 2-1 away win for the Under-18s over Italy in the last group game of the European Championship prelims. We were 1-0 down but scored two in the last minute – both from set-pieces, just like Man United in ’99! There was a fight afterwards – they weren’t happy!
I’ve had just one yellow card in my whole life – for dissent. But my attitude generally is that you can’t change the ref’s decisions so what’s the point in arguing?
Quick feet, dribbling and creative passing.
Tackling and heading. I don’t score enough goals with my head. I don’t score enough goals full stop.
Who do you play like?
Eyal Berkovic, maybe.
Playing as a sub in Arsenal’s 4-0 win over Man United in last season’s Worthington Cup. I wanted to start, but to play in a match like that at 18 was a buzz.
Getting left out of the reserve squad at Arsenal.
Biggest influence(s) on career
My dad – he’s always been there to push me on and to remind me why I’m playing football. Also, Bill Golland at Mottingham Youth, Arsenal coach Neil Banfield, who really made me the player I am today, and my close friend Eric Walters, who gives me good advice.
Best player played with
Hard to pick one. I played in friendly matches with Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry in summer 2001. Against Rushden & Diamonds, I set up a goal for Henry and celebrated with him – that was cool. This summer, I played in Spurs’ pre-season matches with Jamie Redknapp, Teddy Sheringham and Milenko Acimovic – all quality players.
Best advice received
Nothing specific, but I believe that you should play for the love of the game, not money. I don’t come from a very rich background; I played football with my friends because I loved it. I want to keep that attitude.
A funny thing happened...
At a hotel in Bournemouth I saw Ben Thatcher launch a two-footed tackle on this huge plant pot. He was only wearing flip-flops, but he’s a hard nut, isn’t he? He smashed it to pieces then casually reported the breakage to the receptionist!
I’m not driving yet. I get cabs or ponce a lift!
Rap, R‘n’B, garage and slow jams... Donnell Jones, R Kelly – all that romantic stuff.
Beyonce or Ashanti?
Beyonce – I’m gonna meet her some day.
Spiderman or Eight-Legged Freaks?
Eight-Legged Freaks. All those creepy crawlies... I like ’em but I hate ’em. I’ll be hiding behind the seat in the cinema!
In five years I’ll be... an established professional footballer.
And another thing...
I didn’t work very hard at school, but I always did pretty well in exams. My best subject was maths. I got an A in my GCSE and started the A-level course, but I had to give up when I went to Arsenal. I didn’t have time.
Interview: Justyn Barnes. From the November 2002 issue of FourFourTwo.