When we set out on a new calendar year on Team 33, the year to come is a blank slate to be filled in with some of our dream guests.
Not all dreams are realised of course but a few childhood heroes, some Premier League cult hero figures and a few more obscure stories did make it on the show during the year.
One interview we didn't expect to come through was the man who scored the Dutch goal in the 1974 World Cup final - one of two legendary Johans in that Netherlands Total Football outfit.
Johan Neeskens joined me for a half hour chat about a career as part of iconic Dutch and Ajax sides as well as his early love of baseball:
One piece that Joe, Derek, Killian and I would put up there as our favourite interview to record was former Ireland international Mark Kinsella. Originally we were planning to do an hour max with the former Aston Villa and Charlton midfielder in studio but as the hour mark approached, we quickly realised that there was so much left that we hadn't touched on, including his Ireland career, the personal impact of Saipan and some of the challenges trying to get onto the coaching circuit in the UK. So it ended up being a two-hour special that we played over two weeks with Mark kindly staying on for the marathon recording session:
Sometimes you look to set up an interview and it could be two years before you're actually able to get it over the line.
For me, that was Bobby Smith. A man who played with New York Cosmos alongside Pele, also made it onto the USA Soccer Hall of Fame.
But the reason I was so keen to interview him was because he'd spent a brief period on loan from his US club with Dundalk here in the League of Ireland during the 1970s. I mean, how many people have played in the League of Ireland and in the same team as Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and co?!
And he was a brilliantly engaging and enthusiastic story-teller as he joined Killian, Derek and I back in January for a long chat about some of his remarkable experiences:
Another remarkable story-teller was Rachel Anderson, a FIFA licensed agent. She joined the four of us 20 years on from when she made the headlines. Back in 1997, she had been barred from entering the PFA Awards dinner because she was a woman and she told us how she fought against that and blazed a trail in a male-dominated football industry:
A happier anniversary was Celtic, whose surviving Lisbon Lions were celebrating 50 years since becoming European Cup winners. One of that legendary number, Jim Craig, a right back in the team that defeated the mighty Inter Milan joined us to share vivid memories of his time with Celtic and that famous day in Lisbon. To say it was a privilege for Joe, Derek, Killian, Adrian and myself would be an understatement:
While the Lisbon Lions were before my time, more vivid for me was the Manchester United sides of the 1990s and one cult hero that stands out from the time is Andrei Kanchelskis.
With his new autobiography Russian Winters just published, the former Russian winger came to Dublin and I sat down with him for a half an hour chat about his time in England and beyond.
Similarly, Carlton Palmer was another 1990s stalwart we had the privilege to speak to and aside from the former Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United engine room operator, we also spoke to other well-known ex-players who played or managed in the League of Ireland including Wimbledon hero Lawrie Sanchez, former Dublin Gaelic footballer Jason Sherlock and Chelsea legend Bobby Tambling who joined us alongside our good pal Paddy Mulligan, ex-Ireland international:
Darius Vassell, who never played in the League of Ireland, was also another nice fella to chat to and we touched on his England career and time with Aston Villa, while ex-Everton and Fulham striker Tomasz Radzinski was also another sound man who shared a few stories from his career including Richard Dunne's deceptive pace and quite unguarded thoughts on David Moyes' man-management:
There were so many other interviews we loved doing like the engaging Anton Hysen, who became the first gay footballer to come out since Justin Fashanu; West Ham cult hero Clyde Best who was one of the first well-known black footballers in the English First Division and the challenges that came with that status; Iceland and Uruguay internationals Kari Arnason, Jose Gimenez and Sebastian Coates who were in Ireland for friendly matches; Ireland and Everton legend Kevin Sheedy; ex-USA, Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund forward Jovan Kirovski; and India manager Stephen Constantine as he plots to turn vast potential into tangible progress.
Plus we had the pleasure of John Giles' company in front of an audience of Leeds United fans at Temple Bar's Buskers bar in August where he regaled us and the onlookers with his stories and insights.
And that's not to mention pieces that were not career interviews like Dennis Bergkamp at Inter Milan, Michael Cox on the evolving tactics of the Premier League and Coventry City's Paradise Lost. And not forget, our old pal and ex-Newstalk colleague Robbie Dunne who moved to Spain and published a book on Rayo Vallecano that got mentioned on The Guardian Sports book of the year list.
It's a pleasure doing the show and we're looking forward to coming back with more in 2018 especially with a World Cup (the origins of the show itself were as a 2014 World Cup show!) to build towards. Thanks for listening in!
You can find many of the interviews above on iTunes!