Eckersley itching to make an impact

Reporter: Matthew Chambers
Date published: 10 December 2015

A VEGAN and budding guitarist who loves country walks, Richard Eckersley is as far removed from the typical player image as it gets. Except in one regard: he’s dying to play more often.

The 26-year-old right back, who came through the ranks at Manchester United, is an engaging character who has already enjoyed a career at Plymouth, New York City, Toronto and back home again.

Right now though, his target is Oldham. Eckersley’s contract with Athletic runs out after the Coventry game on December 18, and while he accepts selection in the manager’s job, the ex-Burnley defender would rather be on the pitch than the bench.

“I’m fit and ready to go, but a lot of players are competing for positions,” he admitted. The player hasn’t featured since the home defeat by Southend.

“It’s been frustrating, as I want to play football. The only way I can change things is when I play. I’ll keep working hard until he gives me the nod.”

A solid right-back, whose older brother Adam plays in Scotland with Hibs, Eckersley has so far got his feet muddier on favoured treks through the countryside near his Worsley home than on the field with Athletic. His enthusiasm is undimmed, though.

“I’m loving it here,” he said. “The lads have been great and the manager has been really good.”

It’s all half a world away from Eckersley’s previous employment with New York Red Bulls. Living in Hoboken, New Jersey with waterside views of Manhattan, his year-long adventure came after two years over the border for Toronto FC.

Eckersley played in a line-up featuring former Premier League star Tim Cahill and World Cup winner Thierry Henry.

It was quite the experience, he admits, one which saw him get back into the Red Bulls side late in the season following injury, helping the team into a Conference Finals meeting with New England Revolution.

“I’ve really enjoyed it and it has given me a different outlook on football and on life. They treat things differently in their approach to football. It has given me all of this experience and I hope I can use it.”

Eckersley understands the frustration of supporters at bad results. With Millwall in mind, he believes Athletic must be prepared to throw everything at the opposition.

“If we can focus on what we are good at, I know we can outplay teams,” he said. “Fans are disappointed and they have so much passion, seeing Oldham through thick and thin. They only want the best for us.”