Ruaidhri Higgins explains timing of Patrick McEleney unveiling and responds to Vinny Perth jibe
RUAIDHRI HIGGINS claimed he doesn't want to 'make any enemies' at Dundalk Football Club as he responded to Vinny Perth's accusations that Derry City acted in a 'disgraceful' and 'disrespectful' manner with the announcement of Patrick McEleney's pre-contract agreement.
The 28 year-old Dundalk talisman signed a two-year deal with his hometown club and will return to Foyleside once his Dundalk contract expires at the end of the season unless the two clubs can reach an agreement on his potential release later this month.
Derry confirmed McEleney's pre-contract agreement on its social media accounts shortly after Dundalk's 4-0 Europa Conference League victory over Newtown AFC at Oriel Park and the timing of the announcement infuriated Perth who claimed he was 'shocked' at the Candy Stripes' attempts to unsettle his team.
In his first interview since Perth's angry response, Higgins explained the reasoning behind the club's announcement, claiming a 'local journalist' was about to break the story and felt Derry acted in the best possible manner.
"This is the way it is," he began. "Speculation was rife and the whole country was talking about him coming to Derry. Wednesday, we could have put it out but we didn't because Dundalk were playing in Europe on Thursday. And then one of our local journalists was going to run with the story on Friday morning anyway. He got wind of it and everyone knew it was happening.
"So the only window for the club to announce it, and the club should always announce things like that, was after the game. There's no great time to announce those sorts of things but the club, I'm sure, would rather put it out there rather than a local journalist because they (the club) should be in control of the situation.
"Listen, I had an amazing time at Dundalk. A lot of good friends and a lot of brilliant memories and the last thing I want is to get into a dispute with Dundalk's manager because I have too much respect for the club and I wouldn't do that.
"Although Dundalk were in a difficult situation, we were in a difficult situation because the story was breaking anyway," he explained.
Dundalk boss, Perth aimed a dig at his former assistant when adding; 'I thought particularly the manager would have known better. He has done very well out of this football club for a long time.'
However, Higgins refused to get embroiled in a war of words, instead claiming he has the 'utmost respect for the people' at Dundalk.
"Naw, it didn't surprise me," he responded when asked if Perth's personal jibe surprised him. "But I don't know if I would've reacted any differently after a game," he added. "As I said, they were in a difficult situation.
"They had just won a game but again, we had a small window to put something out there before it came out on the Friday anyway. Obviously it's disappointing for them but I think our club has acted, in a bad situation, in the best possible manner. That's how I felt and I still feel that. I don't want to make any enemies at Dundalk obviously with my history there and the success we had together so I have the utmost respect for the people there."
The former midfielder revealed there had been discussions held between the clubs but was unable to confirm if a deal was close to being agreed.
"I don't know. I think the two chairmen have been in touch but I can't shed any more light on it and there's nothing close to being agreed.At this minute in time I've no idea. There were brief discussions between the clubs but I can't shed any light on it."
Derry lost 1-0 to title chasing St Pat's at Richmond Park on Friday night and despite having an extra man for the final 33 minutes of the game, the Candy Stripes were unable to break the Saints' resolve.
Higgins admitted his side lacked a 'creative spark', something McEleney is certain to provide once he eventually returns to Brandywell.
"I'm delighted," said Higgins when asked about McEleney's imminent return. "Obviously Patrick is at a point in his life where his kids and partner are moving back to Derry and he's keen to join the club.
"His commitment to Dundalk can't be in question at all. If you look at his performance last night and if you look at his performance against us the previous week, I thought he was Dundalk's best player over the two games. He's a real professional. We're delighted that in future seasons he will be back at the Brandywell."