A NEW approach to diet and refuelling at York City means post-match pizza is now off the menu, but transfer-window recruit Derek Riordan is just pleased not to be fed chicken feet.
Following a 2011 move to Chinese Super League outfit Shaanxi Chan-Ba, Riordan had such a struggle stomaching the local delicacies that he lost a stone in weight and returned home to Scotland five months into his two-year contract.
Perhaps surprised by the scarcity of Chow Mein, Chop Suey and egg-fried rice, Riordan found life difficult during his short-lived oriental odyssey and will not be kicking up a fuss over the Margherita ban at Bootham Crescent.
He said: “I turned down European clubs earlier in my career, so I thought why not when the chance to go to China came along but it wasn’t very good to be honest. It was a totally different experience and I lost a stone in weight during the first three months.
“The style of football, training and language were all really hard to deal with, but the worst thing was the food, even the pre-match stuff. It’s nothing like your average food over here or what you would get from a Chinese takeaway.
“It was stuff like chicken feet and all sorts of things like that. It wasn’t for me and I didn’t look well when I came back – I was mega skinny.”
Riordan, 33, has led a nomadic existence ever since, with brief spells at St Johnstone, Bristol Rovers, Alloa Athletic and Brechin City before finishing last season in the Scottish second division with East Fife.
Prior to a text from City boss Jackie McNamara inviting him for a trial last month, Riordan had been training with former club Hibernian since September as he waited for a suitable approach that never came.
He jumped at the opportunity, therefore, to join the Minstermen and now wants to prove a few doubters wrong in his homeland, insisting that he can still cut it as a professional for several seasons to come.
“Nobody came in for me up there,” he revealed. “I probably could have played in the lower leagues but I did that last season at East Fife.
“It was a nice club and Gary Naysmith was the manager, who I got on really well with, but it’s not the best standard. I want to be the best I can be every time I play football and it was just about getting a chance.
“The gaffer here has given me one and I need to take it, because I believe I’ve still got another three or four years in me.”
Riordan was handed his first City run-out for the reserve side that drew 0-0 at part-timers Guisborough in the North Riding Cup this week before losing 4-3 on penalties.
The former Scotland international, who was capped three times by his country, completed 70 minutes of the game, but reasoned that he is short of sharpness, not fitness, explaining: “The gaffer has said I just need some game time and I felt fine.
“I never put much weight on so it’s not about my fitness, but my sharpness, because I hadn’t played since May, other than during in-house games at Hibs.
“It’s a wee bit different playing games where everyone is giving 100 per cent and flying about.”
Having finished as top scorer at Hibs in five of his last six seasons at the Edinburgh club, Riordan is now hoping to add potency to a Minstermen attack that boasts Vadaine Oliver as its leading marksman with a modest tally of six league goals.
“At the start of any season, my target is always to be top goalscorer,” Riordan added. “That’s obviously going to be difficult now but the main thing is to try to score and assist as many goals as I can because, if I do, there’s a good chance we will pick up points.”
He will be hoping for better fortunes, meanwhile, than in his last stint south of the border when he failed to net in a dozen outings for Bristol Rovers during 2012/13.
“I enjoyed it at Bristol but we were getting battered every week,” he pointed out. “I was playing wide on the left and, when you’re getting beaten a lot, you’re usually doing a lot of defending, which isn’t my strongest point.
“In League Two, you also get a lot of big guys and there were so many diagonal balls being aimed at myself and I’m not the best in the air.”
With a reputation as a free-kick specialist, Riordan assumed that responsibility on a couple of occasions at Guisborough with limited success but will be happy to volunteer his set-pieces services at first-team level if needed, saying: “Free kicks are one of my strong points, although they weren’t at Guisborough, but I will blame the pitch for that.
“It was like a cow field and so hard to get your boot under the ball.”
With 20-year-old Hibs hopeful Jason Cummings publicly citing Riordan’s presence at Easter Road as a major factor in his plundering of 19 goals this season, the 5ft 11in forward is now hoping to help get the best out of City’s on-loan young guns Bradley Fewster and Ntumba Massanka, who he operated alongside at Guisborough.
He said: “They are only 19 and 20, so they are learning. I was trying to talk them through things at Guisborough and wanted them to play together more because, at times, they were too far apart.
“I used to benefit from listening to older players myself at Hibs and I know what it’s like coming through as a youngster. You need that help because it can be quite intimidating, but I think there’s enough quality at the club to score goals and get us out of trouble.”