Captain Sean McGinty is the latest player to face our Q&A…
When did you first realise that you wanted to be a professional footballer? Ever since I was a young boy. I was playing for my local side Bearsted, I think I was playing midfield then and scored a hell of a lot of goals. I was scouted by Charlton Athletic from there and, aged 10 or 11, it comes to mind that you might make a career out of it.
What’s your first football-related memory? Probably going down to The Valley – my grandad and cousins were all season ticket holders. They took me when I was about nine, Charlton were in the Premier League at the time, with the team including Clive Mendonca and Mark Kinsella.
Who has been your biggest inspiration? My dad. He’s pushed me from the start of my career and tried to make me the best player I could be. He came to all my games and gave me feedback, and he moved the family up to Manchester to support me for three years, and hopefully in the future I can pay him back for that.
What team did you support as a boy? Charlton Athletic
Have you always played in your current position? I haven’t – I used to play in midfield and signed for Charlton playing in central-midfield. I turned 14 and one day we didn’t have a centre-half, I played there and did really well, and from there I just pushed on.
What is your proudest moment in football? Probably winning the FA Youth Cup
What is your most memorable game? My first game for Sheffield United, we played Colchester United and there was about 22,000 people there. I’d played in the League before but that was probably the biggest game I’d played in and it was a very proud moment walking out.
What is your most embarrassing moment in football? I wouldn’t say it was embarrassing but I got sent-off for the Republic of Ireland Under 21s in my last game. I was 21, turning 22 in the August and got sent-off against Montenegro so that’s probably one that I want to forget.
What is your favourite away ground? I’d probably say Stamford Bridge – there were only 12,000 in there for the FA Youth Cup semi-final but it was obviously a big occasion and it was fantastic to play in.
Do you have any regrets in football? Not in football, no, but off the pitch, as a youngster I made a lot of bad decisions and maybe I could have been playing at a higher level. That was probably the only reason I left Manchester United because I did stuff off the pitch that I shouldn’t have been doing. Being young and at one of the best teams in the country, it all got to my head a bit really.
Who’s the best coach you’ve worked with? Warren Joyce, my Under 21’s manager at Manchester United. He did a lot for me, really improved my game. He put me to left-back and has obviously improved me as a footballer, and I feel that if I do go back to centre-half later in my career that I’ll be a much better ball-player, and I thank him for that.
Who is the best player that you’ve played with? (after Joe has been mocking Sean’s previous answers in the background) I was going to say Joe Oastler, but… I want to say someone from a first-team game, so probably Ian Henderson at Rochdale. He was at Norwich City as a kid and scored 24 goals last year, he was fantastic and really drove their promotion push. I think he scored 15 the year before as well – he’s a fantastic player and a fantastic lad.
Who has been your toughest opponent? I remember in that first game for Sheffield United, Gavin Massey played on the right wing for Colchester United, very tricky and very quick, and he gave me a lot of problems.
What do you remember of your professional debut? It was for Morecambe, I was only 17. I’d been playing Under 18 football and for the Reserves, and got a loan move to Morecambe. We played Dagenham and Redbridge, I’m not sure what the result was (Morecambe lost 2-1), but it was a very tough test. Josh Scott played up front for them. It was a good game and my first real taste of men’s football – I was just pleased to get through 90 minutes and I think I gave a good account of myself
If you had the power, what one thing would you change about the game? I’d try to get goal-line technology in the whole of football, the top four divisions. I think it will come into play at some point, but at the moment I’d say that.
What is the best piece of advice that you have received? Don’t over-complicate things. As a defender, you’re paid to defend and to stop goals, and in my early career I was maybe trying to do a bit too much – bring the ball out or hit the long ball that wasn’t on. Just defend and put your body on the line.
What advice would you give to young players? It’s not as easy as everyone thinks it is, you don’t just turn up and pick up your pay packet – there’s obviously a lot of hard work and there will be a lot of ups and downs. But if you stick with it, it’s a fantastic career and all of the sacrifices that you make are definitely well worth it.