Before you can even ask the question, Rohan Ricketts posits it himself. "Last time I was at Spurs, I was getting man-of-the-match against Steven Gerrard. I had Alex Ferguson tapping me on the back at Old Trafford and telling me I played well. I had Sven Goran Eriksson calling me to congratulate me on my progress. And I go from there... to Moldova. Not getting played. Not getting paid.
"Someone asked me recently, 'how come you never quit?' "It's a good question. I've seen many players knock it on the head for lesser so-called declines."
This week's fixtures would appear to offer the perfect answer though. After years in the relative football wilderness – bouncing around five countries from Canada to eastern Europe – Ricketts is returning to White Hart Lane after six years for his new club Shamrock Rovers.
"It's a nice surprise. So many people have contacted me already. I've spoken to fans, people at the club. Hopefully, I'm in the squad. To step out there would be amazing."
Ricketts, who began his peripatetic career at Arsenal and also had spells with Wolves, Queens Park Rangers, Barnsley and Coventry, is no typical alpha-male footballer. For a start, he recently rebuilt his reputation with a series of articles that broke the omerta of the dressing-room. Ricketts isn't afraid to talk about the dirtier side of football, the way money can alter people's personalities.
"I respect the truth... Footballers like to stay in that safe place."
And, sitting in Shamrock Rovers' gleaming new Tallaght Stadium, he's equally forthright about the reasons promising careers encounter such problems. Between 2004 and 2011, Ricketts went from the fringes of the England squad to fighting for pay at Dacia Chisinau in Moldova and actually feeling in physical danger. Questioning the chairman led to untold problems. Indeed, just before this interview begins, he phones Fifa to pursue his case over three months' unpaid wages.
Given such issues – and such a career – many might think there's an element of bitterness to Ricketts's honesty. Except that doesn't appear to be the case. He appears content. Positive but not preachy.
What's more, he doesn't absolve himself. "Maybe I didn't deal with things well, getting dropped. That was one of the reasons. But, at Spurs, David Pleat played a factor. I was always banging my head off a brick wall under him.
"It's all about personalities in English football. Another human has to like you. It's a mate's game. When I've moved to some of the clubs I've gone to in Europe, you know it's because that agent is friends with him, so they're cutting people into deals. There's a lot of money floating around. There's financial gain, so many other things that go into it. Some of the things that I've been through at Tottenham at other clubs, I don't think they were just."
Among a series of anecdotes Ricketts has told is about his time under Pleat. Before taking over from Glenn Hoddle as manager he apparently made it known that he wasn't a big fan of Ricketts and subsequently made little use of him. But when Ricketts phoned him about a move away, Pleat told him he wasn't going anywhere and queried how Ricketts had obtained his number.
"Maybe that's why you see footballers move around a lot of clubs. They become detached because they're in such a ruthless business. Because there's so much more going on than what meets the eye. Agents, clubs, coaches, chairmen... lot of bullshit to deal with. And when you deal with that, you do think after a while 'I need to look after me'. Because not everyone's going to be a Wayne Rooney or a Rio Ferdinand."
Is Ricketts not anyway envious, then, of some of the players he will come up against on Thursday? After all, he grew up with Jermain Defoe and Ledley King and played against Rafael van der Vaart as a youth international. "No... I don't think I'm one to be envious. I see so many talentedplayers struggling for a club. You need that rub of the green... It's a fickle sport. Sometimes talent and hard work doesn't get rewarded."
But what about the lifestyle he has excoriated. Does he miss that? "The money, the easy girls... I've been with my lady three years. I think that's special. If anything, I miss the level of players."
It's for such reasons, however, that Ricketts has written a short e-book called Passion for Football, essentially a guide book for parents who have young players entering it. "I think a lot of youngsters are getting deludedby the image of a professional footballer. I've been asked by parents: 'should my son do this, do that?' So I wrote the book. "I want to advise them on choosing a club, getting into a club, getting released, getting dropped, moving countries... then creating longevity."
For now, though, his focus is on Thursday. "I will get a nice feeling, especially to see so many familiar faces. But after that, what happens? Back to normal. You can't dwell on these moments. And because I'm like that, I don't dwell on the bad ones."
No question about that.
The Wanderer: From Canada to Ireland via the back of beyond
Toronto (MLS 2008-09)
My home now. I loved the culture and lifestyle. That's where my media career took off and I met my significant other.
Diosgyori (Hungarian Premier Division 2009-10)
A horrible experience. Two hours outside Budapest and no-one spoke English. There were money issues again and four coaches in three months. Ludicrous.
Dacia Chisinau (Moldovan Premier Division 2010-11)
It was hot. I met some cool people but it was a horrendous experience for the most part. Some players used to drink before training.
Wilhelmshaven (German Fourth Tier 2011)
I had a great time and enjoyed my football. I have a special place for Germany.
Shamrock Rovers (Irish Premier Division 2011)
It's been good. The people have been amazing, squad's great. There's only one issue: the weather. I thought the world was going to end when the sun broke out.Reuse content