Ivan Sproule (born February 18, 1981 in Castlederg, County Tyrone) is a professional footballer who is famed for his fast feet and pace and currently plays for Bristol City in the Championship.
Sproule, a winger, came late to professional football. His career had been spent at Omagh Town and Institute – semi-professional clubs in the Irish Football League. He combined playing football with his full time career as an engineer.
Scottish Premier League club Hibernian invited him for a trial in January 2005, in which he impressed manager Tony Mowbray and signed as a full-time professional until the end of the season for £5,000, which meant that he had to give up his day job.
The gamble paid off for both Sproule and Hibs. He scored one of the goals in a 3-1 win over Celtic at Celtic Park which significantly damaged their championship hopes, a particularly enjoyable moment for him given his boyhood allegiance to Rangers. As a result of such form, he was offered a revised 2 year deal which he showed little hesitation in accepting.
In August 2005 Sproule hit the headlines by scoring a hat-trick in a defeat of Rangers. In February 2006 Sproule further added misery to Rangers season by helping Hibs eliminate them from the Scottish Cup. Sproule scored one goal and assisted with another, as Hibs again won 3-0. Hibs went on to lose in a semi-final against rivals Hearts. Sproule was sent off during this match for a stamp on Saulius Mikoliunas.
Sproule’s name was often sung by the Hibs fans with “He’s here, he’s there, he’s every-f***ing-where”, a reference to his blinding pace. However, most of his better performances at Hibs tended to occur when he came on as a substitute, which has sometimes made it difficult for him to command a regular first team place. He made a total of 94 appearances for Hibs of which 40 were as substitute, scoring 18 goals. And now with Ivan leaving for Bristol City his pace will be missed.
Sproule joined Bristol City on a three-year contract on 27 June 2007 for an undisclosed fee believed to be about £500,000.
He made his debut for the west-country club on 29 August 2007 against Manchester City in the Carling Cup. He was made to sit out the first four games of the season due to a suspension which he received while playing for Hibernian.
Sproule was called into the Northern Ireland squad for the first time in September 2005, and came on as a substitute in the famous 1-0 win over England at Windsor Park.
Sproule scored on his first start for Northern Ireland against Estonia on 1 March 2006. His goal won the match, as it was the only goal of the game. The goal was actually scored with his first touch, with only 2 minutes of the game played. During this match, the Northern Ireland fans sang “And I can’t – help – falling in love – with – Sproule”, after his maiden international goal.
He was, however, left out of the initial Northern Ireland squad for the matches in October 2006 with Denmark and Latvia, but was later added for the Latvia match due to call-offs by other players.