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Football: IT'S GOOD TO BE BACK; Connolly beginning to re-build troubled career at Feyenoord.

Byline: HUGH O'REILLY

DAVID Connolly last night underlined his hopes of reviving his fading football career and resurrecting his Irish international hopes.

The former Watford striker, banished by Feyenoord two years ago after falling out with then manager Leo Beenhakker, has been recalled to the first team squad under new boss Bert Van Marwijk.

And that is a major boost for the pint-sized striker, who last year plied his trade in the lowly Dutch Toto division with Excelsior.

There, despite being the highest-paid footballer in the Netherlands, Connolly was forced to play week-to-week in front of tiny crowds more typical of the League of Ireland.

But impressive form last season saw him clinch the top scorer award in the division. And now Feyenoord bosses have bowed to pressure to bring him back to the top flight.

Connolly was included in new gaffer Van Marwijk's squad for last weekend's 3-1 win over Ajax and spent the week training with the first team.

Now the striker who once promised so much reckons his star is on the rise again.

"I suppose that you could say that I've been waiting for that phone call every week - ever since I dropped down to the Toto," he says.

"It's great to be back and it's even better that it's the fans who want me here.

"After Feyenoord were knocked out of the UEFA Cup, I think our supporters thought we needed fresh ideas.

"This is a big chance for me. I always thought I'd be back, but still I'm not taking anything for granted.

"I've got to work hard now and re-pay the faith of the fans. And also for people like Mick McCarthy who never gave up on me."

Connolly made the big move to to Feyenoord in 1998 when he was out of contract at Watford. At the time, a number of clubs joined the bidding for him but the Dutch giants won out with a deal which made him a millionaire.

But after only a few months, a change of managership at the club saw Beenhakker arrive and Connolly farmed out to feeder team Excelsior.

A subsequent loan spell with Wolves failed to bring a change of fortunes with an experimental partnership alongside Ireland team-mate Robbie Keane falling flat. Finally, he was shipped back to the Toto.

Connolly's last big appearance with Feyenoord was a Champions League fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

On that occasion, he didn't even get a kick of the ball, but Republic boss McCarthy still continued to include him in his squads.

His last cap came when he appeared as a sub in the friendly against Finland and his change of fortunes may bring more.

Yesterday Big Mac confirmed that he still regards the 23-year-old as an important member of his camp.

"I'm delighted that things are going well for him - from his point of view and from mine," he said.

"It's no secret that we need more options up-front.

"David hasn't had the best breaks but he's coped with everything that's come by him.

"I would think the experience in Holland has built his character."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 17, 2000
Words:520
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