GREG Sloggett is hoping to put his inside knowledge to good use when he comes up against First Division champions, UCD at Brandywell tonight.
Sloggett speaks fondly of his four years spent at Belfield but he’s desperate to get one over his former employers in tonight’s opening game of the 2019 Airtricity League season.
He was nominated for the Player of the Month award for September 2018 and formed a superb partnership with Gary O’Neill as UCD’s attractive brand of football made people stand up and take notice last season.
There’s no doubting where his allegiances lie now, however, and Derry City boss, Declan Devine will no doubt be picking his brains for a way past a UCD side who arrive on Foyleside with a winning mentality.
“I’ll give him as much information as I can,” smiled Sloggett who hails from Gormanston in Co. Meath. “Most people know how UCD will set up and play. There won’t be too many surprises on the night but I will be giving as much information as I can.
“I think it’s a bad time to face UCD,” he added. “They’re a good club with a good standard of football and they have been playing competitive games leading into pre-season whereas other clubs are playing friendlies.
“I think the college games, even though the standard is lower, there’s still the mindset of needing to win. That’s something which can’t be matched in pre-season.
“I remember our opening game last year when we were playing Shels and I just felt we were more prepared than Shels for a competitive game. So we can expect them to come out of the traps flying.
“They will be looking forward to playing on a big pitch too and will thrive off that. But we’ll be ready for what they have and hopefully we can get three points on the board.”
The 22 year-old Dubliner was handed the vice captaincy by Devine for the way he’s embraced life on Foyleside since joining from the First Division champions last month and for the way he’s conducted himself on the training ground.
Relocating from Dublin to Derry has been a challenge but the transition from part-time football to full-time with the Candy Stripes has been relatively smooth for Sloggett.
Despite 40 plus gruelling training sessions during the month of January alone, he’s taken it in his stride and feels ‘right at home now’.
He’s eager to fully immerse himself into the community in Derry and with a computer science degree behind him, he’s on the look-out for possible part-time work in the city.
“I can try do some remote, part-time work up here and there might be something when the season starts for me. Maybe a company in Derry might have something part-time, you never know.
“I want to get more involved in the community in Derry. We’ve hit nearly 40 sessions in the month of January between training on the pitch, the gym and swimming and yoga - it’s been a crazy month and you come home and you’re shattered. But as the season starts and the evenings get a bit brighter, I look forward to getting involved in the community and meeting new people.”
Sloggett is already being recognised on the streets of Derry - something he’s found slightly surreal given he hasn’t played a competitive game for the Candy Stripes yet!
“It’s been my boyhood dream to play full-time football and it’s a great place to set out to do that,” he said.
“It’s such a big club and it’s great to be playing in front of such good fans. I’ve felt it since I’ve come up here. People are noticing me and I haven’t even played a competitive game, so it’s great to have that support around the city. It’s a privilege in many ways.
“It was a tough transition to move up and settle down but I feel right at home now and I’m really enjoying full-time football and being up here in Derry - it’s been great. I’m loving it!
“Football-wise things have been good and relatively hassle-free. I find myself perfectly suited really but it’s just those other few things which were challenging.
“I think things have settled down since we went to Isle of Man . It was a chance to bond as a group and I feel right at home now.”
Candy Stripes boss, Devine was at pitchside for UCD’s semi-final defeat to eventual champions, Dundalk at Oriel Park in the FAI Cup semi-final last season. Sloggett played a key role in getting UCD that far in the competition having set up the opening goal, scored by Conor Davis, as they stunned Waterford at the Belfield in the quarter-finals.
And it was his performance against the Lilywhites in the last four which, he agrees, potentially clinched his move to Derry.
“Potentially it was where Declan spotted me,” he agreed. “It was personally a good game for me and sometimes that’s all it takes is one game for a manager to think that’s the kind of player I want. I’d like to think it was but it’s hard to really say. It’s been a good couple of years for me at UCD and I got a lot of games under my belt.
“The cup run put UCD in the spotlight and everybody got to see what a good club they are with that style of football in the semi-final where we matched Dundalk in terms of football style.
“UCD played one of the best brands in the league and will come to the Brandywell playing a similar style,” he predicted.
Sloggett is excited to get his Derry career up and running and while it’s a twist of fate he plays against his former side on the opening match, he can’t wait to get out and represent the Candy Stripes in front of a packed Brandywell.
“It’s such a beautiful ground and I’m very excited. The pitch is fantastic and is made to play football on with the size, the width and the slick surface. With a bit of water on it the ball moves beautifully.
“Everyone is looking forward to the first game of the season. I just can’t wait!”