How a job offer in Portugal led Declan Redmond to playing across Europe

“I am now in love with the town and the football club who I still play for today.”

It may have taken a few years and seen him travel across Europe but for Declan Redmond, a midfielder from Liverpool, he finally has somewhere abroad where he can call home.

Currently playing for fourth-tier Icelandic side Skallagrímur, who he helped to promotion last year, the 24-year-old had an impressive academy upbringing in England before playing in Portugal and then later in Norway, a spell which was sandwiched between his two spells in Iceland.

“I spent five years at Blackburn Rovers who were then a Premier League team,” says Redmond. “I lived in Liverpool so the travelling three of four times a week was very demanding, especially for my parents who put so much effort in for me.

“The football itself was amazing and I had so much fun. The facilities and the professionalism of the club were top class.”

Having played for Rovers throughout secondary school, the midfielder finished his footballing education with another Lancashire side, Fleetwood Town but after a year with the Fishermen, it was time for something different.

“During my last two seasons there [Blackburn] I went through a growth spurt which affected my play, which then affected my confidence which eventually gave them no reason to keep me on longer as I had a large dip in performances.

“Fleetwood on the other hand was a really bad year for me, I hated everything about it. The club was going through a transformation but the coaching and the football from everything that wasn’t the first team was very poor.”

In action as a youngster in Portugal

The next time Redmond would play football competitively would be abroad but he did not make the move overseas looking for a new club. At the age of 18, he decided to head to Portugal to spend the summer working at a restaurant in Faro, the biggest city in the Algarve. What happened next was an unexpected but welcome chance to return to football.

“I made friends [in Portugal] who invited me to play football and where we played was close to where the SC Farense youth team trained. I handed them my CV and they were interested so they invited me for pre-season which turned out to be successful.

“I settled so well. It was summer so everyone was having a good time, the players were amazing in welcoming me and I still speak to many of them today. The move happened through contacts and I think it just happened at the right time for me.”

Having made the move initially just to work the summer, Redmond was now signed to the youth side of SC Farense, a club whose first team played in the second-tier of Portuguese football. Buoyed by how well he had settled in, the midfielder enjoyed an impressive first season with the youth side and impressed staff further up the hierarchy.

“I had an amazing season [with the youth team] and I was the only player called up to go on pre-season with the first team. I was told if everything goes well and I settle in well they’d see no reason to not sign me.

“I had a long pre-season where I played against SC Braga, who are one of the biggest clubs in Portugal.

“I had a constant ankle injury throughout the pre-season and I was very anxious on and off the pitch as it was a huge step for me, which led to them wanting to loan me out for experience.”

Having experienced senior football for the first team in pre-season with Farense and tested himself against top-flight sides, Redmond would now continue his development out on loan at fourth-tier side FC 11 Esperanças. Just like much of his experience in Portugal so far, he settled in well and made an instant impact but unfortunately for the former Blackburn man, injuries would halt his progress after a serious setback which affected not just life as a footballer but life off the pitch too, he decided to reassess his future.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better start,” he says. “I think I had six goals in six games but then broke my nose in the seventh from a elbow, which needed a operation.

“After a few games out I returned and in that game, I suffered a skull fracture which was very serious. I collided with the metal barrier that surrounded the pitch. This took me a long time to recover and I wasn’t the same when I returned.”

Understandably, such a serious injury has to be considered from a life perspective and not just about how it would affect football so Redmond decided to look for a change and contacted clubs in Sweden and Iceland as he looked for a fresh start. In March 2015, he was offered the chance to join Skallagrímur based in the town of Borgarnes in the west of Iceland and hasn’t looked back since.

After two years in which the midfielder fell in love with town, he was offered a deal he couldn’t refuse by Norwegian fifth-tier side Eiger IL but after just two appearances for the first team, a back injury saw him agree to mutually terminate his deal so that he could return to Skallagrímur.

Back in Iceland, last season he scored four goals in 12 league appearances to help his side secure a return to the fourth-tier. The new season began earlier this month and with his side picking up one win from their opening three games so far, the midfielder is enjoying being back in Iceland.

“Now in Iceland I work as well as play, this is the way over here, even in the top division sometimes. I am happy in this club and in this town and wouldn’t want to move again.

“I still have very strong contacts in Portugal and I do wish to return one day as that was the best coaching and football experience I had but for now I will continue in Iceland.”

It’s been quite a journey so far for Redmond and he now seems to have found a home but with his 25th birthday later this week, he could yet still add to his footballing adventure.

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