Derry City's 'Candystripe Kaka' Will Patching is daring to dream
The Englishman isn’t getting carried away just nine games into the season but while his feet remain firmly planted on the ground, the thought of finishing the season with silverware has been the motivation behind City’s rampant start to the campaign.
Patching’s chipped in with five goals from those opening nine matches, including winning strikes against St Pat’s and Finn Harps, and believes their top of the table position is evidence of the quality in the City dressing room.
“It’s the aim of this year for everybody, to win the title, and to be in a position we’re in now just shows you how much quality we have in our team and how much we’ve worked for each other over the first nine games,” said Patching.
“Hopefully we can keep doing that throughout the rest of the year and see where we’re at during the latter stages of the season.
“There’s a great buzz around the place and around the city as well. We’re getting stopped by a lot by fans and it’s great to see them enjoying it. We’re not letting ourselves get too far ahead of ourselves though. We have a lot more work to do.”
City bagged nine points from three tricky away fixtures at Bohemians, UCD and Finn Harps last week but Patching’s delighted to be back at Brandywell tonight to take on Shelbourne and hopes Derry can put on a show for the fans.
“I feel like we’ve not had a home game in God knows how long now. I think everyone is happy to be playing in front of all our fans again and put on a show for them and hopefully get another three points.”
With fixtures against Drogheda (away) and UCD (home) to follow, it represents a fantastic opportunity to maintain their place on the summit, particularly with second placed Shamrock Rovers taking on third placed St Pat’s tonight while fourth placed Sligo travel to fifth placed Dundalk.
“Obviously we can’t control anything outside of our fixtures but as long as we do the business that’s all that counts. Shelbourne are a well set up team. I think they’ve only conceded one goal away from home this season and they’ve not lost a game away from home.
“So I would say it’s going to be tough, like every game in this league is. Anything can happen in a game of football but as long as we stick to what we do and show our qualities, then I’d be confident for us to take points off anyone in the league.”
On the flip side, Derry then face into a tough run of fixtures in May when they play St Pat’s, Bohs, Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk and Sligo.
“If you look later on next month we’ve got a run of five or six really tough games so it all comes back around. We’ve got to keep trying to get points against the teams we should be getting points against. Then the teams at the top end of the table, we’ve got to grind out results and show our quality against them as well.”
Patching’s graceful playing style has earned him the nickname ‘The Candystripes Kaka’ while his deadly accuracy from free-kicks has made the moniker Brandywell Beckham’ stick in recent weeks.
As a keen Man City fan, Patching prefers the comparison to AC Milan and Real Madrid legend Kaka but knows he’s doing something right to be likened to either of the former Galacticos.
“Beckham was so, so,” he laughed, “I’ve heard a few (nicknames) knocking about. I heard the ‘Candystripes Kaka’, ‘the Brandywell Beckham’ but to be called after those players you must be doing something right. I was a City fan,” he laughed. “So I’d prefer the Kaka one.”
His winning goal against Harps on Saturday was another special strike into the top corner but has he been spending any extra time perfecting his technique on the training ground?
“When I was younger I would practise them a lot. Nowadays I would try just ticking them over and do it every so often but it’s not really flat out, like every day after training.
“I’d practice maybe once a week. When I feel I’ve got my technique locked in I just try and remember what I do. It’s been working so far so I’ll just try and keep that up and get as many as I can.”
The former Man City Academy star credits Ruaidhri Higgins for restoring his confidence and giving him the freedom to express himself on the pitch. Whether that’s playing in a deeper midfield role or more advanced, he’s happy to be heavily involved.
“Yeah I’ve been playing different roles. Obviously with the recruitment Ruaidhri had over the summer and the signings he’s made, with Brandon (Kavanagh), Cammy (Dummigan) and Fats (Patrick McEleney), there’s more competition in midfield. Obviously that’s healthy competition.
“He’s been playing Brandon a bit more advanced which means I’ve been playing a bit deeper because I think it suits Brandon a bit more. I can do both really, I’m not really too fussed. I’m enjoying it and I’ll play anywhere Ruaidhri asks me to play. At the end of the day it doesn’t really bother me.”
Missing out on March ‘Player of the Month’ award, Patching is hoping his form this month warrants another nomination.
“It would be nice to win it at some stage,” he admitted. “One of the boys told me a Derry player hasn’t won it since 2013 so it would be nice to win it. It’s more about the team though. I don’t tend to focus on that sort of stuff as much as long as I can help the team.”