Sam Verdon: “I felt it was the right thing to do but, still, it was difficult to leave Longford”

Article by Andrew Dempsey - @AndrewDempsey2

Image via  @LongfordTownFC

Image via @LongfordTownFC

During his one-and-a-half-year stint at First Division Longford Town, Sam Verdon established himself as one of the key men keeping Neale Fenn’s side ticking over as the now 41-year-old Londoner sought to revolutionise a product lacking side languishing in the second tier of Irish football.

While many Longford supporters can’t argue with his choice to join a Premier Division club, the loss of Verdon is a source of disappointment around the Red and Black half of the Midlands.

The former St Patrick’s Athletic recently caught up with reporter Andrew Dempsey to look back on his League of Ireland adventure to date, while also looking ahead to an exciting 2019 in the Premier Division with newly-promoted Finn Harps.

Verdon began his League of Ireland story with St Patrick’s Athletic. While at Richmond Park, the Malahide native learned the tricks of his trade playing and training among a seriously experienced midfield with League of Ireland titles and honours aplenty.

“The Pats team I went into was full of amazing players. Keth Fahey, James Chambers, Greg Bolger and Killian Brennan to name a few, they were all playing in my position and I had them to learn from. Even being in and around training with them was amazing and when I made my debut it was a surreal moment! I would’ve liked to have played more for Pats to be honest but that’s something I’ll never forget.”

While game time was an issue for the youngster, Verdon did get a taste of Europa League action while playing under Liam Buckley. As a whole, being around the European stage was an experience Verdon won’t forget, however, the lack of game was a source of frustration for the then 21-year-old.

“Playing in Europe was incredible. I played twice and it was amazing, they were both away games which was probably even better in Luxembourg and Minsk. That was an amazing experience but again, I still would’ve liked to have played more.”

With game time becoming more of an issue which each passing week, Verdon made the decision to depart the “Saints”. With no real set idea on where he would go next, the newly appointed Neale Fenn at Longford Town got in touch, a mere two days after Verdon’s decision to leave the Emmett Road outfit.

“I left Pats on the Friday and I got a call from Neale (Fenn) at Longford on the Sunday.  He asked me if I’d be interested in going down training with them and I really enjoyed it. I didn’t have my mind set on anywhere initially, but I went down on the Monday evening and it was great. The style of football was a major factor in joining. I think at that stage I just knew I had to go out and play.”

“A week or two before I signed, I actually went to the UCD game at the Bowl, it was nil-all, but Longford were excellent on the night. They played some brilliant football and I knew then I was going into a team that wants to play it the right way. The second half of that season was great to play with some of the games holding no real pressure and we could just go out there and enjoy it.”

Leading the line on many occasions to providing those all-important assists, the midfield star had plenty of high points at the club, none more so than what he described as his ‘hair-raising’ equaliser versus Shelbourne in March 2018.   

“It’s going to sound funny but the 3-2 defeat against “Shels” last season was my favorite moment. We lost but when I scored my second to make it two-all it was an unbelievable feeling. I know it sounds stupid because I got sent off minutes later, but that goal was just amazing and seeing the fans go wild in that corner was unbelievable. All the lad’s reaction to it as well makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck!”

With injury unknowingly cutting his time short at Longford, Verdon admits that he would’ve liked to have completed his stint at “De Town” on a more positive note. However, the prospect of playing in the Premier Division was just too good to turn down in the end.

“It’s just been a really, really long time since I’ve played a match and I’m itching to get back out there! It would’ve been nice to have left Longford on a brighter note, but it wasn’t to be. I’m going to play for a good club, a good manager and play in the Premier Division as well, which was just something I just couldn’t turn down, especially at my age.”

“I felt it was the right thing to do but still, it was difficult to leave Longford. Neale (Fenn), Daire (Doyle) and all the lads were great to be around and I got on well with them, I really enjoyed it!”

With the days counting down to the season opener away to Bohemians on February 15th for Finn Harps, Verdon is anticipating a tough challenge in 2019 as the Co. Donegal side look to confound pre-season expectations and beat the drop.

“Ollie’s (Ollie Horgan) been brilliant and since the first day I met him I got on really well with him.  In fairness to all the lads, I’ve got on really well with them and I knew a couple from before. We’re under no illusions that it’s going to be a tough task but it’s one we are looking forward to. We know how difficult it’s going to be but, it’s one we’re all looking forward to and I can’t wait to get going against “Bohs” at Dalymount on February 15th!”