THERE will always be players who could have and should have been performing on a bigger stage, the ones observers believe are talented enough for a shot at something better.
There will always be guys who simply didn’t get the rub of the green. There will also always be people who simply have to wait longer than others for destiny to deliver.
Joe Cardle is hoping he is one of those footballers. He knows that fortune has dished out a few crude challenges but, so far, he has managed to ride them and is remaining positive.
A year ago he was embroiled in all the troubles at Dunfermline, facing the hardship of unpaid wages, and the uncertainty of possible administration. He was one of those off-loaded from the wage bill when that fear became a reality and had to find a new club. That new club ended up being the Pars’ local rivals Raith Rovers and the past year has brought him little but delight.
He got engaged to Lucy last summer, became a dad to Josie-Anne in January and with a Ramsdens Cup final and a Scottish Cup quarter-final in the coming weeks, he is enthusiastic about his football again.
“It was the whole of last year at Dunfermline, from start to finish,” says the midfielder. “We got relegated and when we started the season in the First Division, we started well. But then the money troubles kicked in before Christmas and that took its toll on us and we had three or four months where we didn’t get paid so I’m glad that is behind me now. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time at Dunfermline for most of my four years there but last year left me on a bit of a downer and it impacts on your family life as well because, when you go home from training or matches, you take it all home with you.
“This season, although we have had a few struggles in the league, it’s been good. I’ve been playing week in, week out and scored a few goals, got a few assists and we have a cup final to look forward to against Rangers and we are all looking forward to the game against St Johnstone in the Scottish Cup next weekend.
“I never lost my love of the game. I have always been in love with football, it is my passion and it always has been since I was a little boy. I never lost that but with all that went on last season, it did all get to me and it really showed in my football as well. I felt last season was the worst of my career. I only scored three goals and I didn’t feel I really played my part so that does get to you and if you are on the bench or not playing to your full potential, then you are going to be upset with yourself.
“I’m just glad to be back enjoying it, enjoying training and looking forward to every Saturday, scoring and setting goals up for team-mates, and hopefully we can push on in the league and kick on in the cup.”
The hope is that next weekend’s match with Tommy Wright’s men and then next month’s final against Rangers will be the Kirkcaldy club’s ninth and tenth victories in knock-out competition this season.
“I’m very excited and especially with it being shown live on the telly. It means the club get the money but we get to show what we can do on live TV and that’s good for every player.
“We know it’s going to have to be an upset because St Johnstone are a good team with good players but we are playing at home and we have a decent cup record. We have only lost one cup game all season and that was in the League Cup, on penalties, so if we keep doing what we have been doing then we do have a chance. The boys have to be positive going into this game. We have gone to Easter Road and scored three goals past a team like Hibs. That was a big achievement for the club and the players.”
Cardle’s performance that day in Leith was one of the main reasons Raith progressed. He stood out and the surprise for many who have watched him since his arrival north of the Border is that he is not plying his trade in the top flight.
He started his career at Port Vale and, back then, he was likened to a young Steven Gerrard. He smiles at that comparison but he doesn’t feign modesty when asked if he thought a bigger club might have taken a punt on him before now. He believes he can cut it at a higher level.
“I think I’m a late developer and I probably always have been. I was always a wee guy, even at 16/17. I didn’t get through to the youth team until I was 19 because I was quite small and fragile compared to the big boys but I think I have a lot to offer in the game. I’m a good professional and I look after myself and I have matured. I’ve just turned 27 and I feel settled and I still have time until I reach my peak.
“So far I just haven’t had the rub of the green. It’s down to luck at the end of the day. When we got promoted at Dunfermline, I had a good season and I signed a new deal with them and played most of the games in the SPL. I feel that even though we were relegated I personally had a good season and I scored goals and had a lot of assists and played week in, week out and I think at that level it suited me because you get more time on the ball and you can let your flair show a lot more than the league I’m playing in now.
“I had a bit of interest when I was still in contract and clubs wait until you are out of contract or on a free. I’m out of contract in the summer and I’m just enjoying my football, keeping my head down and trying to play as much as I can. That’s all I can do for now and hopefully everything comes good in the end.”