Full speech by Ndo at Hall of Fame
After receiving his Hall of Fame award, Joseph Ndo spoke to attendees of our Awards Night in the Clayton Hotel. You can read the full address here.
This is a great honour. I am very emotional now. You know I played in front of up to 100,000 people and that was a joy for me. I couldn’t get nervous. But in front of you now, I am so nervous.
The first thing I want to talk about is this season. Thank you Gerard for what you have done for the club. Sometimes people outside do not understand how difficult it is for you. But they probably understand now because you are now more grey.
I think you’re good. I think you’re very good. To help us stay in the top division is not enough for your talent, I think you can take us to the top. It’s not enough for the players you are going to have.
I think you are so good that you can achieve things you can only imagine at this club. You have everything here to help you become the manager you will be.
It doesn’t start with the manager. As a player you make your manager look good because he trusts you. You make him look good.
The players have to understand if they can beat Cork City they way they did that day, they can beat anybody. But the league is not starting in February. It is starting now.
That’s why you have those fans coming to the stadium every week. My motto was I had to entertain them. That was my job.
If you see where The Showgrounds is located, it’s in the heart of the town. When everything goes bad with the Rovers, everything goes bad with the town. As a player you have a huge responsibility. Business is better when Sligo Rovers are better. People are smiling.
That is the kind of impact as a player that we have on people.
When you sign for Sligo, sometime you think it is just a small town and you can be more relaxed. Well in my time nobody can be relaxed, you can ask Raff. When you get into that dressing-room, you know.
I remember one player Paul O’Conor before a final. Before we got on to the pitch, I told him that I had never lost a final here. Make sure I win this one. And he was very nervous. I said forget about being nervous, just make sure I win because I never lost one here. I think it’s the demand you put on yourself.
The manager cannot do everything. Players have to understand that managers sign you and what is going to happen to you if that manager gets sacked? Somebody else is going to come in and you are not sure they’re going to like you. It’s now you prepare your season.
When I went on TV to say I was sure Sligo was going to beat Cork in August, I said it because I saw you play boys. I didn’t understand why you were in that position.
That was because of the talent you have and you have a manager that says play and pass the ball. Can you imagine that sometimes in my career I had to fight with the manager and the players say to me “I don’t know want to do, should I pass or not?”
Trust me boys, you have to do more than you think is possible because you have a responsibility for this town. For this town to be successful you have that responsibility. You have the chance, for me, to be under someone who can be one of the greatest if not the greatest in Sligo Rovers. That is for sure.
I also hope you understand the responsibility you have towards the fan. Some of them really struggle. For them, Saturday is the best night of their life. You have to play for them. If you feel you don’t have the strength to do it, then you have to think of them.
In Cameroon, I spent most of my time pleasing others, and not pleasing my kid. Sometimes it was difficult for them. One thing my son didn’t ever ask me was ‘I want a medal’.
For my son I wasn’t a good player. I remembered some day we were passing the ball and he told me ‘you are not good, you are not good’.
‘This is not the way you pass the ball.’
I looked at him and said ‘are you really my son?' *crowd laughter*
So I said to myself, yeah, a big mouth, you are my son’. *crowd laughter*
For me it was all about fans. I was signed by Dermot Kelly. It was amazing the way he speaking about Sligo. We were in a meeting and he was selling Sligo saying 'Sligo is this, Sligo is that' and I look at the guy and think 'is he serious?'
I had just won the league with Bohemians and I was in two World Cups and he’s saying Sligo is like Barcelona. The guy was so passionate.
For him it was the best club in the world. I’m very grateful to him. I’m also very grateful to my friend Frank O’Neill. He did everything for me to be here. He convinced me this was the club for me.
When I signed, and three times when my contract had run out, Ivor Parke convinced me to stay. The thing about negotiating, as much as I like to entertain people, when it comes to business I know my value. Sometimes it was tough to negotiate. Every time the deal would break down, Ivor would step in.
The first time he came to me, he said ‘Joe you cannot go’. I said to him that the deal wasn’t good and I couldn’t stay.
’Can you imagine Sligo fans would see you in another shirt?’ was what he would say to me. I said ‘how can you bring that up now?’. That is not fair.
Three times in a row I stayed because of him because he convinced me the fans needed me. He was too shy to say I need you too but I knew it anyway.
When I first signed getting players to join the club was hard. I spoke to him and said if you want to attract more players, then you have to offer something different.
When I used to play the only thing I think about was football and someone was there to take care of everything. If you have house, you have kids in school, someone is there to take care of it. If you can offer that to players, they will come. This guy was 24 hours working for players.
I remember once his lovely wife Brenda phoned Ivor when he was in my house. She had players all the time in the house. Once she called Ivor and asked him where he was. Ivor had just gone to buy milk but in the meantime another player had called him and said his TV was broken. So he was in my house trying to sort a TV for this player.
I said Ivor you need to get this milk or your wife will not be happy! It shows what had to be done which people didn’t know.
The 2012 team, he worked so hard to sign everyone. It was so hard to make deal. For apartment, taking care of family, Ivor was 24 hours with no life. That was a big part of the success.
There is one guy here who is the most trusted in Sligo Rovers. He had seen some many managers come and go. He is very young and very quiet and his only job is to take care of players and make them feel good. He knows everything about habits. The way a player wants his socks, his shoes,he knows everything.
He is a big part of the success, trust me. This guy will never get an award. You don’t even know his name. In fact I did not even know his name until I decide I had to say something about him. I just call him Feo.
I asked today ‘what’s his name?’ I’m not on Facebook or Twitter. Colin Feehily. I love the guy. He is trusted. Every manager will speak positive about him. That is the sign of someone who can do great things for Sligo.
There are others we don’t talk about too much. Martin O’Connor. He cleans, picks up everything, and had to wait for me at the end. I would be taking my time, taking shower, you know I have to prepare. He and the late Andy Tiernan. Those guys are not the most glamorous but every time you go to The Showgrounds, everything is clean.
Everything is perfect. We don’t pay attention. Maybe we don’t pay attention because there is a possibility to replace them.
Even if you replaced them, it wouldn’t be the same. The only thing they want is Sligo success. I’m talking about them because sometimes you talk about the committee. We all think you can have an impact, only if you’re on the committee. As soon as we get on the committee, you say no I won’t be good enough in what I do. I better not go there.
I didn’t receive an award because I was on the committee. I receive an award because I was a player. Everyone can have an impact on this club at this time only by doing the best you can in what you are good at.
Most of the time we try to look at the other person and what the other person does. We should look at ourselves.
I read an article about our sponsor Connolly’s. Neil Connolly said they are a family business. He didn’t say we are a business family. They have differences but nothing is more important that their family.
We cannot just spend time fighting with each other. Some people are happy to see the club down. That is not fair. If this club goes down, we are all going to suffer. We are all going to suffer. We can point the finger at this guy and that guy and he didn’t do this or he didn’t do that , but we’re going to say Sligo are down. Everyone has to step up a little bit more. Criticise less.
We have to criticise a bit because we feel good after that. But we must all do better. We have perfect grass, perfect. Joe Cleary and Martin. It’s perfect grass and we never pay attention.
Most of the time we focus on negative things If you don’t have the perfect pitch, you will not have great football. The first thing when I came was I told Paul Cook that we need a perfect pitch. We didn’t have a perfect pitch. My neck is too sore to look at the ball in the air. We need the ball down. For that we need it perfect.
Paul Cook was the manager that trusted me most, and also the manager I spoke with least. People may think we had tea every night. In two years with Paul we maybe spoke two times. The guy trusted me.
He said ‘Joe do your thing and if you don’t want to change, don’t’. I remember I was always late in training. Training was at 10.30am and we have to be here at 10. I was always arriving at 10.15am. Okay let’s say 10.20. But I was not home until 5.30pm. That was the difference. I was ready for training. And I knew training with my team-mates would not make me better. I have to do my own training and look after myself. I was 33 when I signed here so I had to a little bit more.
Sometimes players lack that. They think you get paid for an hour or two and that’s it. You get paid for the whole season. It doesn’t matter how much you get paid. You get paid. And if you want more you have to do more. I always told my team-mates don’t be satisfied by your contract. If you sign a contract today, don’t be satisfied.
You have to put the club in the position two or three months later to say “we need you to sign a new deal”. For that you cannot go see the manager and say it. You didn’t prove anything.
I would like to talk about another person. We call him Tricky (Padraig Scanlon). I didn’t know his name either. I always just called him Tricky. He looks after me so well in Riverstown, even these days. We always have that chat about Rovers. You can feel the pain on him when things are not going well.
You can feel that pain and I always try to tell him things will be fine but you can also feel the pain in me. Tricky, I just want to say thank you for everything and I really love you for everything you have done for me.
I want to thank my family. My father and mother, they prayed so much for me and Sligo Rovers. I want to thank my sister. I love you. We have been through so many things. She is my elder sister. She doesn’t understand English so I can say things. I want to thank the one that allowed me be here today. Who am I?
A little guy from Cameroon. I never expected to be here one day in the hall of fame, 41 years old. Sometimes we take things for granted but I couldn’t imagine getting this award and especially at my age. It doesn’t happen.
I had a spell as caretaker for three months. It didn’t quite happen and that is the best thing to happen to me. To fail like that is the best thing to happen to me. It humbled me a little bit. Well, a lot. And then it reminded me, Jesus reminded me, that I wasn’t the one that changed anything about Sligo.
It’s the one that changed something through me. It taught me that I have to be a little bit humble because he can choose anybody else. That was a great experience for me. I want to thank the fans. It was a pleasure to play in front of you. You made my day more than you can imagine. Just to see the smiles on your face.
I remember in 2010 someone told me a story.
They said that for a long time they were not in the Showgrounds. It was a long time.
He said: ‘I used to come here when I was child with my father. I gave up because the way we were playing. I wasn’t happy. One day my son told me you have to come back. Something is amazing is happening. I came back and it wasn’t Sligo. They don’t play like that. I told myself that If Sligo can play like that, maybe I can fight cancer. I decided I would not give up.’
This club is bigger than people can think. As players we have a responsibility towards the kids. In five years the number of kids who decide to play football went up and up because of what we did.
I would like to name all of my team-mates but you might not be happy because I am already taking too much time. But if you insist I will.
The main thing was that they trusted me. We are something greater. We have something greater. Like Connolly’s says, we are not a business, we are a family business.
We can have our differences but nothing should come above the family of Sligo Rovers. Thank you.