Preston North End keeper Connor Ripley is looking to make his own way in the game despite his Premier League-winning dad’s exploits with Blackburn Rovers
Connor Ripley would dearly love to emulate the footballing exploits of his famous father Stuart.
The Preston North End goalkeeper – who made his debut for the Lilywhites last weekend – was just two-years-old when dad lifted the Premier League trophy wearing the colours of Blackburn Rovers in 1995.
Ripley senior was an integral member of Kenny Dalglish’s team, which pipped Manchester United to the title in a nail-biting climax to the season.
While too young to really remember his father in action, Connor Ripley grew up only too aware of old man’s achievements.
The 26-year-old former Accrington Stanley keeper admits winning the Premier League during his own career may well be a stretch too far.
But his father’s accomplishments has certainly provided him with the inspiration to be the very best player he can be during his own career
“I wouldn’t go as far that (winning the Premier League),” said Ripley with a wry smile. “I will try to win the Championship.
“But listen, you never know do you?
“I don’t think Kasper Schmeichel ever thought he would win the Premier League when that happened with Leicester.
“Stranger things have happened, but I think I will take it one step a time.”
Ripley senior played on the right wing and was the man who provided the SAS – Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton – with the ammunition to score the goals which took Rovers to the title.
As a youngster, Connor Ripley fancied himself as an outfield player – a striker in fact.
However, a few wise words from his dad saw him become a goalkeeper – and it has proven to be the best decision he has ever made.
“To be honest, I was a striker – and I thought I was good enough,” said Ripley, who attended Ribblesdale High School, in Clitheroe.
“But my dad told me I wasn’t and he said I should go in goal.
“He was right. It was the best advice he has ever given me.
“I couldn’t really run very far.
“I was a goalkeeper when I was very young and then I decided I was going to be a striker.
“It got to the point where I was playing for Whalley up front and I was scoring lots of goals.
“But I was about a foot bigger and two stone heavier than everybody else. I just used to barge my way through, but then everybody else started to catch me up.
“I think I was about 12 or 13 when my dad just said give it a go in goal.”
There was always a chance that Ripley would carve out a career in the game when he had someone like his dad to look up to.
However, he revealed that his old man was no pushy parent.
“I have been around football all my life – it’s been great,” Ripley said.
“I didn’t really get to see my dad play as much, but I do vaguely remember a few of his matches.
“I remember him walking down the street and people coming up to him – I just used to think that was the norm.
“He didn’t really push football onto me. He just wanted us to be happy and do what we wanted to do.
“I was adamant that I wanted to walk in his footsteps.
“It wasn’t on the wing, but it’s on the pitch.”
After nearly 150 loan appearances in the lower leagues and in Scotland for clubs such as Bury, Oldham and Motherwell, Ripley arrived at Deepdale in the January transfer window from Middlesbrough.
Looking to challenge Declan Rudd for the No.1 jersey, Ripley suffered an ankle ligament injury during a friendly against Oldham in early February.
On the sidelines for the best part of three months, Ripley returned to fitness at the end of April and was handed his debut against Sheffield Wednesday at Deepdale at the weekend.
The match was certainly an eventful affair as PNE twice enjoyed two-goal cushions before eventually having to settle for a 3-3 draw.
Despite being beaten on three occasions, Ripley felt he acquitted himself well.
“I thought overall it was good,” he said.
“I have looked back on the goals and I’m hearing people say that I was hesitant for the third goal.
“The guy headed it two yards off the floor.
“I don’t think I could have really come and collected it.
“It looked like I wanted to do, but I realised I couldn’t really and I sat back.
“But overall, I was pleased. I thought I was commanding and that’s how I want to play.”
This weekend, Ripley is hopeful of maintaining his place in the team for the trip to Brentford.
“It’s a really hard place to go,” said Ripley. “They play really good football. It’s tika-taka football.
“But I think we are more than capable of getting a result.”