Here at ‘the programme’ we’ve tried our best to introduce you to as many of the Ravens players as we possibly can. We’ve still got one or two to cover, but for this week we thought we’d do something a little different. In another life, this writer was a coach and I’ve worked with two of the elder statesmen of the Ravens squad for 18 years in various capacities. During all that time Chris Bass, Sean Quaye and myself had often talked about finding a way to challenge the island’s players at a higher level on a consistent basis. As we near the end of the season, it seemed like a good opportunity for the three of us to sit down and discuss the idea that neither Chris, Sean nor I could make happen, but are thankful that Paul Jones did.
It was a great conversation and what follows is taken verbatim from the tape, with only the odd edit.
Steve Burns: So, the us three have worked together for the thick end of 20 years, I think. We’ve talked long and hard about having a football team from the Isle of Man, whether it’s a national team or whatever, playing at a higher level. This year it’s actually happened. Despite the length of time, over which we we’ve had those idealistic chats we’re here now and you two are still playing. So how have you found the experience?
Sean Quaye: For me personally, I think it’s been probably more than I expected really. I’ve been playing football on the Isle of Man for, like you say, 20 years, and played in some top teams throughout all those years, in front of big crowds at the Bowl and all over the place. All over Europe. All over the UK. To play for FC Isle of Man and to see the following its received I think has really surprised me in a way. In a really good way, of course.
To see the number of fans that come down, and non- (local) football people as well that you speak to, who come and support it. It’s just brilliant really. Everything you could have expected of it and more.
Chris Bass: Amazing experience. I’d reiterate what Sean said, it was unexpected, what we were going to get this year, and how it was going to be received by the Manx public. Then every Saturday night you look forward to it. It’s just an incredible experience. The West Didsbury game is something that I think that we’ll be hard pushed to ever experience again. It’s unbelievable how well the club has been received by the public and the momentum is building week after week after week. Like Sean said, with non- (local) football people too. I spoke to someone on the phone this morning about a car and he says, “Oh, are you Chris Bass, the Ravens manager?” I said, “No, I’m his son.” He said, “Are you the midfielder?” It’s unexpected, everywhere you go, and you just speak to people that love it.
The same man said, “Oh, I’ve got my dad out in South Africa wearing a Raven’s shirt and a Raven’s scarf.” Just for what we’re doing this year, it’s been brilliant. Absolutely amazing experience. It puts fire back in your belly to be at the age we’re at. I frequently ask questions of myself whether I still have it, and whether I want to carry on? The answers always come back yes; it’s definitely put a fire back in my belly.
SB: But one of the things that’s amazed me is… and it’s going back to what you’ve both said about how the public have taken to it. You see the impact it’s had, especially on younger people. They’re looking up to you guys now. Sean’s (Doyle) a mini super star now, I say, a mini, he’s six foot five, but he’s a superstar in terms of the Isle of Man. It’s incredible the effect that the club is having on the public in general.
CB: I actually think they’ve got heroes to look up to now. They’ve got their own football club to support. They’ve got their own superstars. My little boy runs around the kitchen kicking the football, saying he’s Luke Murray and he’s Sean Doyle. I sometimes have to say to him, “What about your daddy?” He’s says, “Not today.”
My Dad (the manager) has always said that, building the club’s and progressing (the club) is for the young people. When we go back to how setting up FC Isle of Man was going to be received, I think a lot of people thought it might impact Manx football. But in the long term, when you see all these young kids come to watch the games on a Saturday night, they’re going to want to be Sean Doyle, or Luke Murray and so on. They want to play for the Ravens and to become a Raven they’re going to have to play football at local level first. I can only see that side of younger players back filling the local teams is going to progress and improve the local league in time. Not right away, but in time it will do.
SQ: Absolutely. I agree with Chris on that front. People were very sceptical about it originally, but now my oldest son is seven and I go drop him off at school. He talks about the Ravens all the time. I see kids at school with Ravens hats on and all that sort of stuff. Their aspirations, hopefully, are to play for the Ravens one day. I wish it had happened 10 years ago. What all the people in the background have done behind the scenes is phenomenal really. I think the future of Manx football, is in really good hands for all those younger players aspiring to want to go and push themselves and have that opportunity to play at a higher level.
CB: Sean’s little boy Henry got up at 6:30 in the morning to go training. He wanted to go to training. He shot off like it was Christmas Day to go and watch the Ravens train. It’s mad.
SB: All the stuff we’ve experienced with Island games, two Inter League wins, two UEFA regions. Goodness knows how many Umbro Cups, and so on. Then everything you lads experienced with MIFA, going to a couple of World Cups and a couple of European championships. They’ve all been different experiences. As you two have been through all that and all the local league successes too, how does being with FC Isle of Man compare?
CB: I think it’s a completely different experience. With the Island team you have a group of players all from different (local league) clubs playing for the national side. You would see each other maybe once a week or twice a month maybe, to train. But with this (FCIOM) we’re training together twice a week, every week. So, we’ve had to form relationships that we wouldn’t necessarily have to when we’ve been playing for a national team. There were times with the island side that there would be little club cliques. But with this (FCIOM) we’ve all come together and had to remember we’re a club in our own right. I think it has taken a little time to do that, but we’ve achieved that now… we’re a proper club.
We’ve had to grow as a group of players, as a squad, and as a football club, it’s taken a bit of time. So that experience has been completely different. But as we’ve gone on, the momentum has grown, and we just loving the whole experience. What also is different is the amount of support we get as we said earlier. You can’t describe how important the support is to all the players and the whole club. Because without the support, we wouldn’t be progressing as well as have done. So, to get all these people backing us and behind us, it’s made everybody feel part of the club, a football club, not just a team, but everything that’s growing around it.
SQ: It’s so professional now, that’s the difference, isn’t it? From playing at club level for a Manx team over the years, to play here and now … this is our club now. The difference is the professionalism is just night and day in comparrison. We have the best equipment, best training gear, the best of everything really. We turn up on match day and see the Bowl come alive.
When we train at the Bowl early in the morning there’s no one about, just the boys and there’s a great group of lads there. We have a real good training sessions because we’re working with the best players, week in, week out. Then when you turn up on a Saturday night and you see the Bowl starting to fill up and the flood lights are on, the soundtracks on the PA and all that. That experience is just totally different to playing over the years for the Isle of Man national or local club teams.
SB: We keep coming back to the support, and quite rightly too because it has been incredible.
SQ: A massive difference, like Chris said earlier, the amount of people that are following us.
We have a group of players here and all push in the same direction. We all want the same, we want to win, we want to strive to be the best. Then when we have an average of, say, 1,500 people a week come to support us and wanting to do that with us as well. It does create a bit more pressure, but in a real good way. Do you know what? We’re not just doing it for ourselves really, or our parents, or our family, or this or that other. We’ve got all these people in the stand that don’t really, necessarily know us as people but want the same things as us and that’s a real different experience.
It’s now got to a point where we‘re doing this for many other reasons other than just football, that’s the community and the support we’re getting from the people of the Isle of Man!
SB: One thing that is noticeable, is that the players in this squad must have a certain mentality. You’ve got to have a bit of desire and determination, take a few knocks, and be prepared to be disappointed now and again.
SQ: It’s impressive to see the younger players with that level of commitment. And a lot of them might not necessarily play on a Saturday, but they’re still there, because they know they’ll get their chance and will hopefully be around the club for a long time to come. It’s important to have that mentality and say to yourself “I’ll just keep training because if my face is here all the time, they’re going to spot me at some point.” Do you know what I mean? Their football futures are ahead of them and they’ve got a good 10-12 years, hopefully, playing at a really, really good level.
CB: It’s important to have the right mentality to be able to compete at this level, and we’re experiencing that. I think that’s perhaps why the manager wanted to have the likes of us two involved, because we have that experience. Don’t get me wrong, at times, certain times, they’ve not needed us at all, because the team has done so well, and the younger players have done so well. But there are times where you need a strong mentality and that big game experience.