One of the traditions when new players join a club is an initiation where they get up and sing a song in front of their team-mates to help break the ice.
It’s one the Dundalk dressing room has enjoyed over the years with some shocking and surprising performances in equal measure reported.
This year’s new recruits have yet to perform for their new team-mates but there could be a surprise package in the bunch when they do.
It turns out Faroes Islands international Sonni Nattestad is a keen musician who is currently on the look out for a guitar to hone his craft off the field.
Supposedly a big Pogues and Shane MacGowan fan, team manager Shane Keegan said he is excited by the prospect of seeing the big centre half perform.
“No they’ve managed to avoid that so far,” he laughed when asked about the tradition.
“Maybe our first overnight away trip might be the time to have that.
“I only heard that yesterday (about Sonni’s talent) so that will be definitely one where we might have to have a sneaky camera to record that for the masses,” he grinned.
Greg Sloggett, an accomplished piano, guitar and saxophone player who entertained his team-mates with a few performances on their European trips last season and who regularly posts his musical performances soon Instagram, is also looking forward to see what Sonni can do.
“I’ve heard he’s good but I haven’t heard in the flesh though,” he laughed.
“Myself and himself are due a jam at some point. That should be good fun. He’s a good character. All the lads who have come in have been brilliant and they’re all ready and raring to go.”
Regardless of how the singing goes, let’s hope Sonni and all the new signings enjoy a Fairytale in Dundalk during their time here.
Having gone to school in the town and grown up just 14km away from Head in the Game Park in Gormanston, a winner against Drogheda Utd – even in a friendly setting such as the Malone Cup – should have been a big moment for Greg Sloggett.
Just like many events in the last year, however, the significance of his header to earn Dundalk a 3-2 win over their Co Louth rivals on Saturday was diluted somewhat by the lack of fans in attendance as the country continues to struggle to get on top of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sloggett’s 68th minute goal from Patrick McEleney’s free kick ironically came a year to the day since the midfielder scored the last Dundalk goal in front of supporters in the 4-0 victory over Finn Harps in Ballybofey.
While he will remember that goal fondly as being his first for Dundalk, the 24-year-old admitted after Saturday’s win that not having fans there had taken away some of the joy associated with everything he has achieved in the white shirt since then.
“It absolutely took away from the win today,” he said of the lack of fans, “and I can say that many times over the course of the last year.
“I can’t wait to have them back. You miss the atmosphere, you miss the adrenaline rush, you miss even that feeling when you score.
“I know it’s a friendly and it’s pre-season but I scored there and I just kind of cheered and there was nothing. You do kind of lose sight of that a little bit after a year without them but I’m definitely looking forward to having everyone back and the sooner the better.”
While bigger challenges lie ahead than the Malone Cup, Sloggett said Saturday’s victory and performance was another step in the right direction as Filippo Giovagnoli’s side prepare for the start of the new league campaign away to Sligo Rovers on March 20th.
“I mean, it doesn’t really matter who the team is, we just want to have a consistent winning run going into the season.
“We missed out on the game in Derry so we need to make the games we have count now going into the season.
“It was a good performance and I think we created a lot of chances out there and possibly should have scored more but we’re happy overall probably.”
Sloggett was particularly happy to score a rare headed goal, even if it did bring back memories of a big chance he missed in Europe towards the end of last season.
“A couple of the lads were joking about one of the headers I missed in the Europa League, the big chance against Rapid Vienna.
“This was similar, a kind of a glancing one but this one went in.
“I wish it was the other way around but I was just happy to help us continue our winning run into the season,” he smiled.
Before Dundalk really get down to business, there’s the small matter of the President’s Cup final against Shamrock Rovers this Friday. The game at Tallaght Stadium might be a glorified friendly rather than a must-win but Sloggett insists it’s a game he wants to win to help his side put down a marker that they want their league title back.
“Any game you play against Shamrock Rovers you’re not going to take lightly,” he said.
“This will be my first President’s Cup because we didn’t have one last year and I’ll be looking forward to that and if I can nurse my calves properly then things will be looking good for me next week but we’re really looking forward to that game.
“I think the big disappointment last year was not achieving in the league what we felt we should have. We should have been right up there and we need to make that right this year.
“Personally it was good that I broke into the team and and played very consistently all through the year and had a good Europa League group stages but I want to kick on from that, add goals and add different bits and pieces to my game and I think this is the right place to do it,” said Sloggett.
Robbie Benson. David McMillan. Ciaran Kilduff. Andy Boyle.
There’s a fairly lengthy list of ex-UCD players who have had big moments for Dundalk in Europe in recent years. Now Greg Sloggett is hoping he can add his name to it over the coming weeks.
Having missed UCD’s Europa League adventure in 2015 through injury and Dundalk’s defeat to Celje in the Champions League qualifiers earlier this year, the midfielder is actually three from three in Europe having featured in the wins over Inter Club d’Escalades, Sheriff Tiraspol and KÍ Klaksvik.
Now he is hoping he can teach Molde a lesson on Thursday like some of the ex-Students from the past did in years gone by.
“Hopefully!,” he grinned when asked about the prospect of following in other Belfield stars’ footsteps with a big European moment was put to him.
“They set the bar high but look everyone is relishing it, including me. To go make history, I’d love it but it’s more important that the team do that as you know.
“Hopefully we can take points and compete in the group, but we’ll soon see with Molde, that’s the first big important game.”
Having arrived from Derry City before Christmas, the Meath man walked into a training centre in which many images of the club’s memorable nights adorn the walls.
He admits there is an obvious inspiration to add to his own memories to the gym surroundings.
“Absolutely. When I signed for this club and looked around, I was immediately impressed. You’re in there pumping iron as they say, you see their achievements and I want to replicate that more than anyone.
“Hopefully we can do ourselves justice in the group. Getting there is an achievement in itself, we can take great pride in that. It’s a great achievement even if it is the only thing we do this year. I’ll look back on 2020 with fondness if it’s all we do.”
The one disappointment for Sloggett is that family and friends won’t be there for one of the biggest moments in his career but he is hopeful Dundalk can create memories for the many supporters they have who will be watching on from home.
“My mum and dad would come to every game. They were up and down to Derry every game last year. They take great pride in what I’m doing and I’d love for them to be at the games. I’m still hoping that maybe Arsenal at home home on December 10th might be possible but we’ll see.”
Either way there’s immense pride in what Sloggett has achieved to date. Hopefully the best has yet to come though.
Greg Sloggett has gone from being Dundalk’s New Kid on the Block to Home Alone in the space of the last few weeks.
The 23-year-old midfielder was undoubtedly the most impressive of Vinny Perth’s pre-season signings in the opening five games of the season – even chipping in with his first goal for the club in their last outing at the start of March away to Finn Harps in Ballybofey.
The former Derry City and UCD player was quickly becoming a fan’s favourite before Covid-19 brought a halt to the league a month ago.
While the Coronavirus has had an impact on everyone, for Sloggett it has meant he has gone from living in a house with three other team-mates to being stuck there alone for the foreseeable future.
While originally from Gormanston in Co Meath, Sloggett opted to live locally rather than commute the half hour or so home in order to focus on breaking into the Dundalk side following his move from Derry City last November.
That saw him move into a house in Belfry in Dundalk along with fellow new signing Will Patching, midfield colleague Jordan Flores and his former UCD team-mate Georgie Kelly.
With Patching and Flores now both back in the UK and Kelly back in his native Donegal, the once busy house Sloggett shared is now eerily quiet.
Speaking to The Argus on Sunday, he admits he can’t wait to have things back to normal but said he has no regrets about moving to Dundalk.
“There are pros and cons to everything I guess. I could have moved home to Gormanston but I like my independence and I felt like I would benefit more from being closer to the town and to live with some of the lads.
“When that was available I wanted to make the most of it. I’m delighted to be here and to be training hard and doing well so it was a no brainer for me to opt to stay here rather than at home.”
Sloggett feels he had been settling in well in his new surroundings but admitted it was a bit of a struggle adjusting to the changed world he has now found himself in due to Covid-19.
“The lads have been great,” he said.
“I knew Georgie from my time at UCD and he would be a good friend of mine and then Jordan and Will are also living in the house and I get on great with them so things are brilliant.
“It’s not just them though, it’s everyone in the team and everyone in the club. They’ve all been brilliant and been really great to work with so I’ll look forward to getting back in and getting going again.
“I’m here by myself at the moment so it’s quiet enough.
“It’s a bit weird but I’m just trying to train away individually. It’s difficult because you don’t want to train too hard and you’ve got to find the right motivation to train as well, which can be difficult especially when there are no games to work towards. It’s about finding the right balance but the management and in particular Graham Norton is doing a good job at structuring everyone to make sure there’s a well balanced fitness regime to keep us ticking over while not blowing us away.”
A home which several players have resided in down through the years, residents of the Belfry house have become huge hits with the local community in the past but Sloggett says it is a strange feeling to have to keep his distance now from his new neighbours.
“It’s a bit mad. You’re nearly looking for people to have fun with and have a kick around with but you can’t do it with your own friends let alone kids who might look up to you so it’s definitely difficult.
“While you might be going through one scenario, you don’t know how others are feeling about the situation so you have to respect other people’s wishes and just keep your distance.
“It is difficult though. I miss friends and I miss family. You miss that closeness and that bond that you have with people, particularly those who support you. You try to get the most you can out of things like FaceTime to keep you sane but there are definitely a lot of things you miss but hopefully they will all be back soon.”
The weekend just gone should have been a special one for Sloggett. On Good Friday he was due to return to the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium with Dundalk to face his old side Derry City while on Easter Saturday he was due to celebrate his mum’s birthday.
While he did get to see her, he had to be content with doing so from afar due to the social distancing guidelines in place at present.
“I’ve been staying away as much as I can,” he said.
“I’m staying in Dundalk but I do pop home and do a few bits and bobs around the house when I can and just chat to them outside the home from afar really because my da would be quite elderly.
“I’ve been trying to keep my distance really but at the same time I’ve been trying to keep some sanity in my life so I try see my close family as much as possible where it’s safe to do so.
“To be honest ever since we shut up shop, I’ve lost track of things a little. I didn’t know we were due to play Derry away this weekend but I would have loved it. I’m looking forward to getting back up there because there are plenty of great people up there. I loved my time up there.
“It would have been a good weekend. Knowing my mum, she would have drove up and been front and centre to support me but it was nice to see her yesterday and wish her a happy birthday in person because she has been a big supporter of mine and I wouldn’t be here without her.”
While there are bigger priorities in the world right now, Sloggett admitted it was frustrating to have his bright start to life at Oriel Park halted in the manner that it was.
“It’s hard to say that it’s disappointing personally in light of everything else that’s going on but it is frustrating for every player who has gone through pre-season, built up their fitness, started the season and got into their rhythm and then for it just to be taken away like that… it’s just like an injury.
“It’s just total frustration to be pegged back like that and have to down tools for a while and maybe not train as hard.
“You have to give yourself breathing space so you can go again. You don’t want to go too hard now incase you burn out in the summer when things come back. We’re all definitely losing fitness a little bit but you have to do that to give yourself space to train hard when things do come back.
“It’s just frustrating because I genuinely do feel like I had a decent start here. I was getting in the team and getting opportunities. It’s tough now but everyone has their own bits and pieces going on. I’m just grateful that all the people closest to me in my life are all healthy and safe. That’s all I ask out of this really and then getting back to football will be a bonus.”
As things stand, Sloggett is the last player to have scored for Dundalk and while he has been far from prolific in his career to date, he says chipping in with more goals is a definite target of his when the action returns.
“I do think I can and should,” he said when asked about could he get more goals.
“I’d have been more prolific when I was younger but for whatever reason, I guess maybe because I gradually became more defensively minded over the years, I lost that a little.
“It’s something I want to contribute more with and definitely feel like I can do more in front of goal.
“Even though it was the fourth goal and a relatively lucky goal, I was glad to get off the mark and open my account the last day.”
Hopefully for Sloggett there will be more to celebrate in the weeks ahead. A free house sounds brilliant but he can’t wait to share his again with his team-mates and get back in action again.
“May 5th is the next target but hopefully we can all come together and make that date the last date of lockdown.
“They’re difficult times we live in at the moment but hopefully it will all be over soon,” he said.
New signing Greg Sloggett has backed himself to force his way into the Dundalk FC first team this season despite being impressed by the midfield talent at Vinny Perth’s disposal since his arrival.
The 23-year-old made his debut as a second half substitute on Friday night against former club UCD having completed a transfer from Derry City before Christmas.
The club’s new number 10 put in a decent shift as the Lilywhites ran out comfortable 7-1 winners on the night and while being impressed by the performance of others, Sloggett said he is determined to be heavily involved in the first-team this season.
“Absolutely but I knew that coming in,” he said when asked about the quality of opposition at the club.
“I came here to test myself against the best day in and day out and be part of the best in the league because I see myself as that. I hope to nail down a starting position and as the season progresses we’ll see how that goes.
“I was just delighted to get my first game and my first minutes. I was a bit nervous before getting going but I settled in nicely and it was a comfortable victory on the night. I felt we all put in a good shift and it was a good first base to get some fitness into the legs.”
Sloggett said he has enjoyed his first couple of weeks as a Dundalk player and feels he will benefit more than most from this week’s pre-season camp in Spain where the Lilywhites will train as well as take on CFR Cluj on Wednesday followed by CSKA Moscow on Friday.
“I guess I’m still settling in and still getting used to how the lads play. I’ve played against them many times but it’s a little different playing with them so I’m just getting familiar with that but I thought it was a good first run out.
“They’ve made me feel so welcome. Everything here is brilliant on site. All the facilities and the way the players are looked after, it’s a very professional setup. It’s the best I’ve experienced in the league so I’ve nothing but excitement now for the season to come.”
The Meathman said he couldn’t wait to test himself against sides who are regulars in the group stages of Europe this week.
“It’ll be a step up in terms of opposition,” he said.
“They’re two good teams to test ourselves against, particularly looking ahead to Europe this season and I know Vinny has that in mind with his opposition selection.
“He wants us to test ourselves against the best and in CSKA Moscow and CFR Cluj we have two of the best in Europe so we’re really looking forward to that now.
“It’s something to get us warmed up and back into the run of things. I know CSKA are in the middle of their season so that’s without a doubt going to be a tough test but it’s good to have a warm up exercise like that tonight and get familiar with the other lads on the pitch.”
As he looks ahead to the start of the season, Sloggett admitted to having a cheeky grin to himself when the fixture computer selected his old club Derry City as Dundalk’s first league opponents on February 14th.
“I was asked about this previously,” he smiled.
“Last year I played UCD in the first game as well so it’s something I’m used to.
“It’s something that I’m looking forward to and it’ll be an exciting first game no doubt.”
With fellow new signings Will Patching and Darragh Leahy scoring on Friday, Sloggett joked that he had to get his act together, particularly now he is wearing the number 10 shirt vacated by Jamie McGrath.
“I thought about that after Darragh scored,” he laughed when asked about his fellow debutants scoring when he didn’t.
“I’m not a renowned goalscorer but it would be nice to chip in at some point. The most important thing is that all the lads put in a good shift tonight so we’re delighted.”
On his jersey number, Sloggett said: “I’m a good friend of Jamie’s and he has moved on and I was looking for a number so hopefully I can live up to that expectation.”