He might not have been a household name in any of the major divisions, but to say that Eamon Zayed had an exciting career would be something of an understatement. It was rollercoaster-esque to say the least; it was made up of the sort of storylines that have resulted in full-length biographic movies for some more established players.
Here, through the course of this page, we’ll take a look at some of the major highs in his career to see how he went from being the “Irishman abroad”, to someone who eventually gained an international call-up for Libya.
It started in Iran
That’s right, before Zayed started gallivanting across the world, his career started in Iran. At first, he was forced to communicate with his manager via a translator. One of his first conversations with the manager was being told that he had never heard of him, and he had only been signed because of the club’s president’s wishes.
The next part is something that dreams are made of for most budding footballers. His first game for new side Persepolis was against Esteghlal. To put this into perspective, this is the Tehran Derby – watched by tens of millions of people on TV, and over 90,000 people in the stands.
Zayed’s first role was on the bench. With his team now 2-0 down and with a man sent off, Zayed was eventually called upon on the 60-minute mark.
Having made little impact in the opening minutes, he was set to be hauled off by his frustrated manager. Then, the magic happened. Zayed proceeded to score three goals, becoming only the second player in history to score a hat-trick in this Derby, and helping his side to a monumental comeback. He was a hero.
The Leicester days
Nowadays, Leicester City are known as THAT team who broke English football and from nowhere came league champions. When Eamon Zayed was at the club, it was a far-cry from this.
Firstly, Leicester weren’t strictly his only club in English football. Prior to this, he had been offered a YTS contract with Arsenal – only to turn this down to concentrate on his studies in Ireland.
His exploits in Ireland, where he broke numerous goal scoring records for his local club, forced Leicester into a move. He was recruited when Peter Taylor was in charge, but things were to quickly turn sour when Taylor was sacked and replaced by Micky Adams.
In football there have been countless occasions over the years of a “face not fitting”, and there’s no doubt that this was the case with Adams and Zayed. A fall-out on the training field pretty much ended Zayed’s career with the Foxes and with two years remaining on his contract, he was told to find another club.
Zayed’s return to Ireland
In a bid to heal the wounds of the Leicester experience, Zayed returned to Ireland. He eventually signed for Bray Wanderers – but this was one point in his career where he really had to bide his time. When first-choice striker Jason Byrne was injured, Zayed seized his change with both hands. During the four years he spent at the club, between 2002 and 2006, he averaged a goal every two games.
It was form such as the above which resulted in the PFAI Young Player of the Year award in 2003.
Back to English football
The form mentioned above made other clubs take note and English side Crewe gambled on his services in 2004 as they took the player on loan. However, the English leagues were to prove difficult again and he struggled to dislodge Dean Ashton (a player who would eventually pull on the England jersey) as well as Steve Jones (a Northern Ireland international).
Drogheda and beyond
Throughout Zayed’s career it is clear that Ireland is where his talent’s really shone. In 2006, he was signed by Drogheda and despite a difficult start, eventually things fell into place.
When we say “eventually”, it really did take time. There were arguments with the manager and plenty of occasions where he almost looked set to depart. However, after being convinced to stay by several first-team pros, the rest as they say was history. His goals helped Drogheda win the championship for the first time in 2007 and again, he was propelled to be a national hero.
Unfortunately, financial restraints meant that Drogheda wasn’t going to be a long-term project. Sure, he had succeeded in helping them achieve the unthinkable, but having failed to reach the Champions League the club had to offload their star assets.
At one point he looked a certainty to join St Patrick’s Athletic. However, after that move failed to materialize, he was forced to look abroad. Eventually, despite offers of trials in countries as far afield as South Korea, he ended up in the First Division Sporting Fingal. The beauty of this package was that as well as offering a competitive salary, Zayed could plan for life after football by enrolling for a Master’s at Dublin City University.
The Libya call-up
Even though he was deployed on the left wing at times, Zayed did enough to impress Libya national bosses. Even though he might be classed a Irish, Zayed actually had grandparents from Libya which facilitated this move.
To say that this experience was out of the ordinary would be a gross understatement. Libya might not have a comparable national status to other countries, but football is still exceptionally popular. His face was in front of countless TV cameras – particularly because the locals hadn’t heard of “this player from Ireland”.
His international exploits seemingly fueled his domestic success as well. He eventually signed for Derry and after signing, he proceeded to score 23 goals in 2011 and become the top scorer in the league.
Of course, like a lot of successful European footballers, Zayed’s career started to wind down as he aged and he ventured across the pond to play in the US. In his first season playing for Indy Eleven, his performances merited a place in the North American Soccer League’s best XI.
This move has also allowed him to complete his UEFA B coaching license, as well as work as a coach for Ball State University. It means that Zayed certainly has a back-up plan once this turbulent, but ultimately successful, playing career comes to an end.