Footballers' Lives with Ross Redman: I was holding back the tears during my final Portadown game but it was time for a fresh start
Glentoran ace Ross Redman is next up in our popular Footballers' Lives series. He discusses his relationship with his famous uncle, low points at beloved Ports, work with the IFA and wedding plans.
Q. How did your football career start?
A. There's a picture of me in the house kicking a ball at my uncle Ronnie McFall's garage. Nothing was broken... Ronnie swore at me enough later in my career! I can remember sitting with Ronnie's wife Anne watching Portadown games when I was about three. I played school and BB football before joining Portadown Youth and Loughgall Boys. I progressed to the County Armagh team at the Milk Cup and then moved to Portadown when I was 14. Vinny Arkins, Dean Fitzgerald and Gary Hamilton were in the changing room. I can remember sitting there watching Gary, Andy and Mark Hamilton come in to sign. I remember thinking, 'Who are these three boys?' Dungannon Swifts captain Ryan Harpur was at school with me and we played in teams together. Mal Donaghy selected me for the Under-19 Northern Ireland side and then I played in the Milk Cup. I was no older than 17 when I made my Portadown debut in the Setanta Cup and spent about nine years with the first-team squad. Kevin Pressman was in goals and he kept me right as well as Peter Kennedy and Keith O'Hara.
Q. Was leaving Portadown difficult?
A. It was because I had been there for so long. Ronnie had left and it seemed everyone was leaving. Keith O'Hara and Sean Mackle were still there but I remember my last game at Ballymena when I was holding back tears. I spotted a lady in the crowd I had seen over the years at Shamrock Park and handed her a shirt. Someone texted me to say thanks as it meant a lot to her and it was an emotional time leaving. A few weeks earlier I had made the decision to leave. There was a points deduction over a registration breach and it seemed there was a poisonous atmosphere at the club and it was time to get away for a fresh start.
Q. What has been your best moment in football?
A. The relief of getting out of the Championship with Portadown was great. I lost two Irish Cup finals but winning the League Cup in 2009 was fantastic though perhaps we underachieved. It was an honour to be selected for a Northern Ireland team and I enjoyed playing against Manchester United in the Harry Gregg Testimonial. Wayne Rooney signed my shirt and that was a highlight. Our manager David Jeffrey came in and told me to mark Dimitar Berbatov at corners... everyone laughed! I just stood beside him but it was a surreal experience. Harry Gregg shook everyone's hand and as he did that he said to me: 'Get stuck into them'.
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Q. And your toughest moment?
A. I suffered a cruciate injury in 2013 when I was 24. I had worked hard in pre-season but in the third game at Coleraine my knee gave way. Mentally it was hard, you need an operation and that's nine months gone. Portadown got me through the operation and rehab. My family helped me through dark days. I was always confident I could come back. Maybe 10 years earlier I might have struggled but with medical advances I had a chance. I played the last three or four games but it was a tough winter. Not being in the changing room made it a hard nine months. The Irish Cup final defeat to Glentoran in 2015 was hard to take. That was our way into Europe blocked and the club never recovered from that.
Q. How has your relationship with Ronnie, an Irish League legend, evolved?
A. People know what Ronnie is like, he's a character and from a young age he never pushed me into football. My mum Eileen, Ronnie's sister, went to all my games. When I got to Portadown Ronnie helped push me back from left wing to left-back and it was a good move. I wasn't treated differently because I was Ronnie's nephew. Keith O'Hara got more abuse as he was called Ronnie's son! He was as hard on me as anyone else. I was dropped and told what I was doing wrong like anyone else. I felt accepted as a local lad. The fans love to see local players coming through but I felt I had more to prove and that encouraged me not to slacken off. Ronnie's wife Anne has been great to talk to, along with Kieran Harding at times. Kieran and Trevor Williamson were there throughout my time at Portadown and both of them helped me through the injury.
Q. Did people say you were only in the team because Ronnie is your uncle?
A. A few opposition fans gave me a bit of that but it never came up in the dressing room. I always take pride in working that bit harder and there was a long line of gifted left-backs from Kyle Neill, Keith O'Hara, Gregg Davidson... you needed to cement your place and I was thankful for all the help Ronnie gave me.
Q. Was it hard for you to witness the criticism Ronnie got at the end of his spell as Ports boss?
A. We had not performed and Ronnie took the brunt of the stick. Ronnie was always one for sticking up for players and letting players hide behind his back when maybe he shouldn't have. Personal abuse didn't bother me and I don't think it affected Ronnie. He's a strong character and he will always lead by example. There was discontent between the fans and board. I tried to get my head down and give 100 per cent. That possibly saw me escape a lot of criticism.
Q. How saddened are you by Portadown's plight?
A. There needed to be a shift in the way it was run. They have got the fans on board and sadly you look at the lack of a mid-Ulster derby on Boxing Day and realise it's a huge loss. The league needs a strong Portadown and it would be great to see Newry come back too.
Q. How saddened were you by the passing of Portadown's legendary kitman Geordie Richardson last year?
A. I used to hide in his kitroom when Ronnie was giving the players a talking to after a defeat. I stood in there with Geordie while he was handing me boots and kit. He was always a great character. His passing was very sad and there was a great turnout at the funeral of players past and present including Brian Strain, Philip Major, Mickey Keenan, Robert Garrett, Keith O'Hara and David Miskelly. Geordie was fantastic in the background, working with Ronnie and he was worth his weight in gold for what he did for the football club.
Q. How did the move to Glentoran come about?
A. I had a few offers but I met Alan Kernaghan and Roy Coyle and everything they said felt right. You don't really know how big Glentoran are until you walk out in a Boxing Day game. The fans have been outstanding through good and bad times. To beat Linfield on Boxing Day was fantastic and we want to break into the top six and stay there.
Q. Who is the best player you have played with and toughest opponent?
A. Kevin Pressman was a fantastic keeper who talked you through games and quality-wise Kevin Braniff and Wesley Boyle were outstanding. Kevin's 40-yard strike into the top corner against Qarabag was the best goal I've seen. Technically, he was head and shoulders above. Toughest opponent at the moment would be Crusaders' Gavin Whyte, a flying machine, but Billy Joe Burns is up there too. Over the years Stephen Carson and Keith Gillespie were fantastic players.
Q. Do you have coaching ambitions?
A. I'm working towards my A licence with the IFA and doing a bit of coaching with the Northern Ireland schoolboys. I have some aspirations but I'm still playing and have a wedding coming up. I want to stay working in the game. In the next five or six years I'll do my badges and see what opportunities there are. I will miss the game when I retire. The passion won't go but your body won't let you carry on. I'm only 28 so hopefully I've a few more years left in me.
Q. What does your work at the Irish FA involve?
A. I'm Schools' Development Officer, focusing on the Schools' Cup, Futsal and Victory and Centenary Shield competitions. I am doing an advanced certificate in performance analysis at the University of Ulster, looking at videos after games and how things can be changed.
Q. Tell us about your life outside football.
A. I'm getting married to Rhianne in Moira during June and having a reception in Cavan. We met during a night out in Banbridge. She works for Shelbourne Motors and we have a house in Portadown. My mum Eileen and dad Peter as well as Anne and Ronnie have always been supportive. We had a few tough times at Portadown and it was good to have that support. Ronnie has been through everything, he knows the game and he knows who's moving where before I find out. Sometimes it's hard to get away from football. My granny, Doreen McFall, passed away a year and a half ago and it was a low point. She was in her 90s and was always a big supporter of mine, ringing me to wish me all the best. Any bereavement is tough. My other granny Evie Redman passed away a few years ago.
Q. What has been the best day of your life so far?
A. Getting engaged at the biggest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai nearly two years ago. When I tried to get the ring out of my pocket I dropped my phone and everything else apart from the ring. I've had good holidays in Las Vegas, Orlando and Cancun but Dubai was fantastic. The wedding preparations are going well. The best man will be a mate, Gary Topley, who played with me up to Portadown reserves and suffered a cruciate injury. I don't think I'll be inviting all the Glentoran boys... they might make a mess! Our honeymoon will be in Orlando and a cruise in the Caribbean.
Q. Have you any amusing stories from your career?
A. Ronnie won't be happy, but we were playing in Macedonia and it was about 30 degrees. It was 0-0 at half-time and Ronnie sweated that much he took his t-shirt off and gave his team talk. He was trying to be serious but the boys were laughing while Ronnie stood there with his top off. No one could look at him, the sweat was dripping down him. One time after I missed a late penalty against Linfield to make it 3-3 Mark McAllister walked in at Windsor Park, lifted a defibrillator and put it through the wall he was that angry. I can laugh about it now!