Sadlier's journey from young pretender to best in the business
"I'm sure you've made a bollocks of your job every now and again!"
If that was Richie Sadlier the pundit talking, he's used his experience to good effect there. It's hard to believe it, but it's over ten years since an ex-Milwall and former Republic of Ireland international sat down for the first time in the RTE studios, a greenhorn taking his place among the Gods of punditry.
To be shoulder-to-shoulder, or depending on how you look at it, head to head with household heroes Giles, Dunphy and Brady was a scary thing, as Sadlier says himself, but that was the least of his worries back then.
In infiltrating RTÉ's famous triple threat, Sadlier was walking a tightrope from day one, a certain cohort of traditionalists only looking for an excuse to take him down. But while there may have been a time when viewers yearned for Giles or Dunphy instead of 'this pretender', it's a testament to the pretender that ten years on, he's widely considered as the best pundit the national broadcaster has.
No more 'where the hell is Johnny Giles?' Nowadays it's the Gospel according to Sads.
"When I was a kid, the only pundits I was aware of were those who were on the RTE panel," says Sadlier, who was speaking as a talk Erectile Dysfunction ambassador.
"So when I started working in RTE and I was sitting alongside those very same pundits, it was a hell of a thrill in one way, but it weas really intimidating in other way. I was aware that these guys are the best around!"
"But no matter what way you looked at it, you couldn't just go in and agree 'yes sir, no sir' to your senior colleagues, which might be a good strategy in other jobs but in this job you just couldn't do that."
That was one thing Sadlier didn't do. Rolling over and bowing down would have lost the crowd but with his slick flow and natural conviction, it wasn't long before viewers were tuning in for Sadlier vs Dunphy or Sadlier vs Brady. He may have been the new kid on the block but Sadlier was never a passenger.
"Have I changed much? I suppose, this might sound a bit dismissive, but I'm not that interested in how I'm perceived by other people. Just like when you start any job, I would have been keen to find out what other people thought of me starting out, what's being said about me kind of thing? Whereas now, I go in with the intention of enjoying it, and doing it as well as I can and then I come home and go to sleep!
"What I try to avoid doing is worry that I'll get something wrong," he says now.
"As I've done many times in the past, I might mix up the name of a player, might recall a wrong result. Might forget something while I'm in the studio, might have a bit of a brain freeze in the programme, and not be able to compose my thoughts and my words in the way that I want.
"I don't go in with the worry like I used to have when I started the job 'what if my prediction is wrong? What if the player I praised has a stinker?' I don't care about those things because those things aren't important. That's part of discussing football. It's not a topic that you can be right on 100% of the time. It's just to make sure you're properly prepared, and then as for what happens during the game, just to react instinctively and call it as you see it.
"Looking back, I was really fortunate that my early years were beside, particularly, someone like John Giles and to have someone like him generously and supportively advising you, that was great..."
A psychotherapist by profession, Sadlier's one wish for the country is that, by the end of this lock-down, the government will have a strong hand in place to deal with the mental health crisis to come.
"The level of suffering, distress and pain that is out there at the moment is off the charts.
"The longer into this lock-down you go, the deeper you have to dig to get through it. It's hard for some people. I mean, Jesus, if 22-year-old me was told 'listen you can't play football anymore,' or if 26-year-old me was told you can't go to the pub anymore or if 35-year-old me was told you can't go dating anymore. All of those things would have been massive issues to deal with. 42-year-old me is doing okay!
"I think the last 12/14 months have been the among most challenging period many of us will ever have to live through. Everyone can put their own little detail onto why that's the case for them personally...but it's hard for everyone to be told that, you have to limit your social interactions with other people. So whether you're a teenager or someone in their early 20s who's full of life and wants to go out at the weekend and you can't, well it's really hard.
"I haven't kept an eye on any of the discussions as to why the public health guidelines are what they are. I don't have any view on vaccines or anything like that, but I would hope to God that somewhere in the government circles, that there's a really comprehensive long term plan which is massively funded, which is going to support the population's mental health coming out of this...If we're not putting something in place to support people, well then that's a massive failing of the government."