After Alan Pardew picked him up for Reading FC in February 2001, Nicky Shorey became a familiar name in English football. A confident set-piece taker and left-back, comfortable in both attack and defence, Shorey went on to play for several top clubs including Aston Villa, West Bromowich Albion and Fulham and the England national team during Euro 2008 qualifiers. At 34, after playing for nine English clubs, Shorey has signed for FC Pune City – a move which ensures his departure from England after a 16-year career.
According to Shorey, the ISL has become a hot topic in football discussions of Europe. “The ISL can prove to be a boon for Indian football at the international level. It’s early days for the league, so you can’t really predict who the favourites will be which is why it is more exciting than other leagues,” he says. Shorey says he chose ‘The Great Indian Adventure’ because of the team’s head coach and fellow Englishman David Platt. He has good memories about Aston Villa and Arsenal legend Platt who had once coached the under-21 England team. “I was a kid when he played and I liked his playing style a lot. When he asked me to play for his side, I couldn’t say no.”
With the experience of 14 years under his belt, the Ramford-born footballer believes that having an injury free season and being at the prime of one’s fitness will be of utmost importance for all players of FC Pune City, once the tournament begins. “In a country where football is regaining recognition through ISL, it is my privilege to be a part of it. I feel I can contribute to the team,” says Shorey.
A no-nonsense defender, Roger Johnson was twice named Welsh side Cardiff City’s ‘Player of the year’ – in 2008 and 2009. The tall centre-back is also a prolific goal scorer and has found the net more than 40 times in his career, a rare achievement for any defender. Johnson made a switch to FC Pune City from Charlton Athletic.He has played for renowned clubs like West Ham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Birmingham City and Cardiff City.
Talking about his switch, Johnson says that his hunger for a new challenge and adventure pushed him to be a part of the ISL. With players like Shorey, Steve Simonsen, and head coach Platt, all from England, Johnson admits that India will be like a second home for him. “I know Nicky and Steve from my premier league days and there’s a fantastic camaraderie which all of us share. Apart from them, there’s a good mix of domestic and international players. Platt told me that the league has got tremendous potential and has already garnered huge popularity. I wanted to make a mark for myself here,” says Johnson.
FC Pune City’s sixth finish in the league of eight in the first edition of ISL doesn’t bother Johnson as he knows the team will make a strong progress this season. “I just hate to lose and give my hundred percent in each game. I’ve played with a winning mentality all my life and ISL is no exception. We’re upbeat and putting in a lot of hard work, we can give our fans much to cheer about this season,” he adds.