Coming up, taking over, and aims for the season – David Martindale Interview

By Matthew Muir

Matthew Muir sat down with David Martindale, manager of Livingston F.C. to talk about his junior career, what advice he has for young players, his journey to becoming manager of the Scottish Premiership club and thoughts ahead of the new season.

David Martindale has always had an interest and a love for football from a young age, from watching his father coach the juveniles to turning up for his own team on a Saturday.

He said, “I’ve been interested in football since I could walk and kick a ball with my feet, to be honest. It [football] has very much been my first love. I remember my father used to be involved in coaching at juvenile level, and I would go along and watch them train. Football has always been part of the family and very much in my blood.”

The Livingston boss was also involved in the Rangers local soccer schools as a young teenager, Davie continued by giving some details about his experience,

“People would go out with Glasgow to find the best players from those areas, and find those that had the potential to do well.

“You would go to Deans Academy High School one day a week, and then over to Glasgow for the other day”, he explained.

Martindale played regularly for the Gers’ juvenile side, until a leg break ended his football career at the age of 15-16.

However, Martindale did reignite his football career at junior level, starting off with Pumperherston before moving on to Whitburn and then Broxburn Athletic.

On his time spent within the junior system, he said, “It was a really good experience, playing in the Super League with Whitburn and Broxburn and in the lower leagues with Pumperherston.” Prior to moving to Livingston, he also spent time in the Super League as assistant of Broxburn.

Martindale became manager of the West Lothian club last November after the resignation of Gary Holt that same month. However, Davie touched upon the beginning of what became, a long standing association with the club.

“My friend worked within the charity at the club, the West Lothian Youth Foundation (WLYF), and was looking for local people to come in and help out”.

Davie then went on to mention about the meeting he later had with the club, who then put him in touch with John McGlynn [currently at Raith Rovers] and Mark Burchill, who were manager and assistant manager at the time.

Martindale then spoke about how he was already acquainted with Mark [Burchill], having both grown up in the same town and how that impacted his journey throughout the club.

“Me and Mark both knew of each other, not personally but through having both grown up in Livingston. John [McGlynn] was open to have me join training on a Tuesday and Thursday, and it sort of just evolved from there.”

Davie was quick to note that the process was nothing that he had set out, saying “It was very organic, and it was nothing that I had planned.

He also took time to show the gratitude he has to both McGlynn and Burchill, saying, “If it wasn’t for both of them, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here today.”

Martindale then became assistant manager under Burchill, when he replaced McGlynn and again during both David Hopkin and Gary Holt’s tenures, before becoming manager, when Holt resigned last November.

On what it was like replacing Gary [Holt], who had led the club to fifth place, and a spot in the top-six for the first time since the 2001-02 season, Martindale didn’t seem fazed.

“There wasn’t much difference to be perfectly honest with you, I was very hands-on when I was assistant manager, as I have been all through my coaching.

The only real change with stepping up would’ve been the media duties. I never got too involved with the media, and was very happy working away in the background”.

Martindale has had a very successful start to his managerial career, achieving another top-six finish, runners-up in the Scottish League Cup final and an unbeaten run stretching 14 games.

On what was the key to those achievements last season, he said, “The players. If the players don’t believe in you and the strategies that you are trying to implement into the club, you aren’t going to go anywhere.

“The players and the backroom staff have got to take massive credit, I am just a small part of that. If it wasn’t for the staff and players, we wouldn’t have had that success.

“It is very simple, if the players don’t believe in me, then they don’t have a place at Livingston Football Club.”

The club have been busy on the recruitment front this summer, with seven new arrivals in the squad ahead of the new season.

Two of which have been from the south of the border, with 20-year-old Daniel Barden arriving from Norwich City and 21 year-old Adam Lewis joining from Liverpool.

On his two young summer recruits, Martindale said, “They are brilliant, they both bring something different and are of similar ages.” On what attracted him to sign both players, Davie added, “Well, it was their footballing qualities, I had scout reports on them both and spoke to people at both clubs.”

Martindale also noted the importance of the desire and determination to play first-team football helped him decide on signing both Adam [Lewis] and Daniel [Barden].

“They, Adam and Daniel are both of a good age and they want to come in to learn and impose themselves at Livingston Football Club.

“They have a hunger and appetite, and that takes you a long way in football, having that desire and both players have got that”.

Looking ahead to the new season, where Livingston open their League Cup Group with an away tie against Highland League side Brechin City, and the Premiership at Ibrox against newly-crowned champions Rangers, Davie talked about goals that have been set to the squad ahead of the new campaign, and is under no illusion about the task that faces him.

He explained, “We try not too, but we do set them and try to keep them within these four walls, but the main goal is to stay in the Premier League, and we have to set that.

“We have the smallest budget in this league by a country mile, now that Hamilton are out of the league, and it will be difficult, but we will see where it takes us.”

Martindale concluded by saying what message he would send to youth players who would like to make the step up to professional level.

“I think it’s a life choice. You have to give everything to football, obviously, family is important but football isn’t just something you can pick up and think that if you go on a diet for three weeks, it is going to make you a better footballer.

“How you look after yourself away from the club is huge, but when your’e at the club it is an opportunity everyday to work and make yourself better.”

Davie continued by hammering home the importance and seriousness of committing to football, saying, “I have seen in previous years the talent that players in lower league football have, but unfortunately it is off the field, with their hydration and nutrition where they’ve let themselves down.

“For me, to be a professional football player, you have to show unbelievable desire and discipline on and off the park.”

Thanks to Matthew for sending this piece, originally published by Youth Football Scotland, to us – We have re-published the piece to allow Matthew to reach a new audience, you can find him on Twitter @matthewmuir9

“I’m glad I went to Clyde, and always will be” David Mitchell interview

By Colin Byiers

“…I’m glad I made the decision to go to Clyde, and always will be.” NE98 Writer has been speaking to Clyde goalie David Mitchell.

David Mitchell, who has now been at Clyde for 2 seasons, is someone I have admired for a number of years and believe to be one of the top goalkeepers in the Scottish Lower Leagues. I was fortunate enough to have been able to speak with the former Stranraer, Dundee and Falkirk stopper about his career and what it’s like to be a modern-day goalkeeper.

So, David, I’m always curious as to how someone ends up as a goalkeeper. Tell me how you got into it.

To be honest, it used to be just me and my dad, and he shoved me in goal and started leathering shots at me! When I was in primary school, one of the boy’s dads came to the door looking for a goalie for their boy’s club and I was what they were looking for. It started from there and I just went with it. I only played a couple of times out field when I was at my boy’s club. I think I’m quite fast, so I usually played on the wing and if I played in the middle of the park, I’d just get lost. I was ok with straight lines! One of my boy’s club managers told me I should play out field, but I don’t know if that was a compliment or an insult!

As you got older, did you have a goalkeeping idol?

Peter Schmeichel was my big favourite. As the Kilmarnock goalkeeper at the time Dragoje Lekovic, I loved him, because my dad used to take to watch Kilmarnock. I really like those two, but Schmeichel was my hero. I had a video tape of his and I used to watch it before every game to get some inspiration!

After all your school football, you end up at Ayr United, and although you don’t make any appearances for the club, what was your education like and how did that set you up going forward?

I was with the youth team for about a year, then I got a professional contract. I spent half a season on the bench, and it was the year that we got promoted. It was a good experience for me, and some good players that I still keep in touch with. It was a really good squad to be fair. I got lucky, because I never really played a lot of youth football and at 19 Ayr offered me a contract. Some of the boys played a lot more than I did and didn’t get one. It was quite a shock to be fair, being in and around a first team changing room. Young lads get a taste of the changing room environment and get the banter, but the banter isn’t as harsh on the young lads. I never really got to experience that when I was growing up, so when I joined the first team, I was getting that, and I struggled with that. I saw it as being part of the game and got on with it. The training side of things I was fine with, I always felt I held my own.

When you went out on loan to Stranraer, was that something that was discussed as part of your development?

It wasn’t discussed, I was just told I was going on loan to Stranraer, which was what I needed. At the time, I wasn’t happy, because I didn’t see it as a way of learning. I thought they were trying to get rid of me, but that wasn’t the case, and I was just making things up in my head. When Ayr got promoted to the 1st division, I was never going to play, and at that age, you need to play games, so it was what I needed. I was massive for me that first season at Stranraer. I had done really well. I cleaned up on all the awards. There was a lot of money troubles going on at the club, so the squad wasn’t great, so it was set up that I was going to be busy every game. Personally, it’s up there with one of the most important seasons of my career.

Having spent a season there on loan, did that make it easier for you to go there on a permanent basis?

It did. The manager at the time was Keith Knox and the assistant was Stephen Aitken and I really liked both of them. Got on well with them. Everyone at the club was so welcoming, so many great people that I’m still good friends with. I had spoken with Brian Reid about going back to Ayr and saying that I should be playing, but to be honest, looking back now, I wasn’t ready to be a number one at Ayr. It’s a massive club, but I just needed to play games. It’s nothing against Ayr United or Brian Reid, it’s just something I had to do, make sure I was playing every week, and that was something that Stranraer had promised I could do.

You had a good couple of seasons with Stranraer, which resulted in promotion through the demise of Rangers Football Club in 2012. Firstly, about the loss in the playoffs, how disappointing was that lose?

It was pretty gutting, as we put a lot into that season, and we ran Alloa close. The playoffs were heart breaking. We won the first leg against Albion Rovers 2-0 and cruising, and then within 5 minutes it was 2 each at Cliftonhill. It then comes down to penalties, which is the luck of the draw. The penalty that they had to win it was probably the luckiest penalty I’ve ever seen in my life! I couldn’t get near any of the penalties, and the one that I was told I wouldn’t get anywhere near it, I got my hand to it and pushed it onto the bar. It’s then bounced on the line, and the line at Cliftonhill sits on a wee hill itself, actually bounced back into the net rather than bouncing on the line at out. I’ll never forget that game, because I still don’t know how we never won. We battered them.

As you were preparing for life in division 3 for another year, at what point did you get the call to say you would actually be playing in division 2?

We were playing a pre-season game and it was just so random. Obviously, we were happy to be playing in a higher league, but the manager had built a team to go and challenge for the 3rd division, and I think the jump between the two leagues in pretty big and it ended up being a hard season that one. We finished 8th and every game was torture. Every game we played everything would go wrong for us. We had no luck, and every game was a slog. That was the toughest season of my career. Albion Rovers finished bottom that year and you kind of felt after the playoffs that it was a case of putting something right, but at the same time, it’s not nice to see anyone get relegated.

You would then play Rangers 4 times the following season after their promotion, and even got a draw at Ibrox.

It was a great day that one and the family were all there as well. It was something anyone expected, because Rangers were going for a record of wins, and they were favourites to beat us comfortably. We had done well, and I may sound biased, but I think we should have won that game, and the penalty they go that game was ridiculous! I still don’t know why it was a penalty. Nobody asked for it, nobody claimed for it. It was just given. We played some good football that day and it wasn’t like we stole a point, which made it even better.

That was a good season overall, as you finished 3rd. What was the difference from the year before?

Stephen Aitken and become manager and brought in Stevie Farrell and they worked really well together. The players they brought in were more suited to that level. We were still favourites to get relegated because we didn’t have a big budget, but we finished 3rd, which was an incredible achievement given that Rangers were in the league and Dunfermline were there too.

We went one better the next season finishing 2nd behind Morton, but we should have won the league that season. Morton finished strong towards the end of the season, and we just lacked goals in the end. To have won that league, it would have been massive. Again, we were tipped to be relegated that season, believe it or not, and we ended up finishing well above Dunfermline, one of the full-time teams, and to run Morton so close, was something to be proud of. It’s something I always think about, “what if we won that league”, which I think we did deserve to do. We lost Martin Grehan, and the year before, he worked well with Jamie Longworth, and I think had he stayed at the club that strength and depth would have got us over the line. There were games that season where we really should have won the games, like Stenhousemuir, we just couldn’t beat them that season. That ultimately cost us.

At this stage, you got an offer to join Dundee, which was too good an opportunity to turn down.

I had never been full-time, and it was all I wanted to do, and at 25, I was thinking it maybe wasn’t going to happen. I never gave up on it and I had a tunnel vision, that was where I wanted to be. Paul Hartley and Bobby Geddes had a part to play in getting me to the club and I am always grateful for that. Stephen Aitken had ended up going to Dumbarton, and I was speaking to him quite a lot and he was trying to take me to Dumbarton, but to be fair to him, he phoned me and said that I should go full-time and give it a go. That was brilliant of him to do, and something I always appreciated. It was a dream come true to go there. Scott Bain was there and had a really good season, and had just signed a new contract, and there was even talk of him getting into the Scotland squad, so I was under no illusions that I was going there to be nothing another than the number 2. It was up to me to battle him and put pressure on him. Even though I knew what I was going into, it was too good to turn down, and a player moving from League 1 to the Premiership is pretty unheard of.

You spend 2 years at Dundee, then 2 at Falkirk, where you play a combined 18 times in those 4 years. Do you look back at those 4 years with a sense of disappointment?

The full-time experience brought me on loads, I learned so much from it and it made me a better goalkeeper. At the same time though, I would say I have regrets, it’s more frustration thinking I could have and should have done more. Certain things happened during those 4 years I couldn’t control. I worked hard and I’m disappointed that I didn’t play more, especially in the Premier League. Going to Falkirk, obviously, I couldn’t control the injury I got. I was disappointed when I left Falkirk. The people there were amazing, and the fans were always good with me. When we got relegated, I wanted to put things right following my injury because the things they did for me during that time were unbelievable. They worked so hard to get me back playing, I wanted to repay that. Unfortunately, Ray McKinnon wanted to do his own thing and I couldn’t control it. I’ve never felt the way I did, the day I found out I was leaving Falkirk.

You end up at Clyde. How did that come about?

I didn’t get many offers, my agent was working hard, but you’d end up with the usual, “how’s his knee?”. I ended up going to meet the Clyde manager and was sold straight away and I knew that that is where I wanted to be. Danny Lennon is a great guy and I love his ambition and where he wants to go. It was a pretty easy decision to make after meeting the manager.

I never took in for granted that I was going to play every week, but I needed to show that I could, and my injury wasn’t going to stop me from playing. It was an opportunity to go and play and prove to people that they were wrong. I’m glad I made the decision to go to Clyde, and I will always be.

Having joined Clyde, you then come up against both Falkirk and Stranraer in the same season. What’s it like playing against your former sides?

I’ve said it before, but I hate playing against Stranraer, just because it’s so strange. That’s where I started and that’s the club that made me who I am. If it wasn’t for Stranraer, I wouldn’t have my kids either, so it’s added pressure. Playing against Falkirk, I strange because I’ve still got good friends their and it’s another club that I am forever grateful to. It’s not nice playing against your former clubs.

One stat I would like to mention, is the fact you have been involved in two 8-0 defeats. How do you explain that?

I can’t! I’ve tried to erase them from the memory, but I do remember after both of them, coming home, and going straight up the stairs and lying down in a dark room, just to try and forget about it! I remember the Livingston game more than the Morton game, because Livi’s squad was unbelievable at the time. I don’t think we had the ball that game. They’d start with at the goalkeeper and pass it and pass it and pass it and before you knew it, they’d scored. It’s one of those things that happens, but for it to happen twice is pretty unlucky. The Livi defeat was the first game if the season when we got promoted after Rangers demotion, and I knew it was going to be a long season after that!

Back onto Clyde, how well is the preparation going for the new season and how well do you think you will do?

I have ambitions to play at the highest level I can, but before that, I want to win something with Clyde. To be at the top end of the table would be good for me, but obviously, things happen during the season, and it doesn’t work out that easily. I’m looking forward to playing with the new signings and they are signings I think we needed. We needed experience and we’ve definitely got that with Morgaro Gomis coming in as well as Conrad Balatoni. It’s a decent mixture with boys that have already played at this level that are still at a good age, and when you’ve got Goodie, (David Goodwillie), you’ve always got a chance. Ally Love, who is someone that goes unnoticed for what he does at the club but is a pure winner. I’m feeling good about next season, I’m looking forward to it and hopefully it won’t be as stressful as last season. If you look at all the leagues, League 1 is probably the toughest. I mean, who do you pick to win the league? Obviously, I want Clyde to be up there and not be like what happened last year. I think if we concentrate on ourselves and not worry about the other teams, that’s the best way to go about it. It’s going to be hard. Teams will have bigger budgets than us again, but that’s the nature of the game.

Are you looking forward to the prospect of fans being back in the stadiums again?

I can’t wait! We’ve missed them, especially the Clyde fans, they are so good for us. Even last season, when they were never in the stands, the supports club, the Glasgow branch, sent a couple of letters before the bigger games and that gave us a bit more motivation. They are always there for us and even last season when we weren’t good enough to be honest, the never once went against us. I can’t wait to get them back, even going to away grounds and getting the stick from the away fans, I’m looking forward to that as well! I like going to places where you get a good bit of banter with the fans, it’s part of the game.

Finally, I’d like to get your thoughts on modern day goalkeeping. What do think a modern goalkeeper should be?

It’s all about having the ball at the feet. I like the way goalkeeping is going at the minute. I really like Ederson at Man City. It’s unbelievable how good that boy is with the ball at his feet, but still does the other aspect of it by making big saves, stopping shots and coming for crosses. There’s more appreciation towards goalkeeping, even though there are still idiots on social media who think they can comment on it, even though they’ve never played in goals. It’s going the way it should be and at the end f the day, its an extra man you can play with. You can see, boys are more comfortable giving to goalkeepers these days, not like before, when they’d rather kick it out for a throw in.

Any keepers in Scotland that you like watching?

I like watching all the goalies. Alan McGregor last season was phenomenal. Craig Gordon as well, two guys I’ve looked up to. I’m a big fan of Robbie Mutch at Falkirk, and I’m still mates with him, so will always be a fan of his. I think the standard of goalkeeping in League 1 last year great. Stuart McKenzie at Cove Rangers was impressive. Josh Rae at Peterhead done great. Max Currie and Marc McCallum are another two who always perform well. I don’t want to miss anyone out because I’m a big believer in the Goalkeepers Union and I have a lot of time for all the goalkeepers in our leagues.

Five Unforgettable Clashes with the Auld Enemy

By Keiran Fleming

After what was a disappointing return to the major international stage for Scotland, Steve Clarke will be looking for his men to bounce back when they come face-to-face with ‘Auld Enemy’ England.

Both nation’s footballing history have been intertwined ever since their first meeting in 1872, making it the oldest international fixture in world football. 4000 spectators watched the groundbreaking bout at Hamilton Crescent in Partick as it ended goalless.

Since their historic meeting in Glasgow, Scotland and England have battled it out on the pitch 114 times with the English winning 48 and the Scots winning 41. The 115th match between the pair will be one of the most important in Scotland’s history. A win may be all that is needed for Clarke’s side to progress into the knock-out rounds for the first time ever.

Here are five of the biggest games that have ever taken place during their 149 year rivalry.

The Wembley Wizards

Both England and Scotland were off to a terrible start in the 1928 British Home Championship. Scotland lost to Ireland and drew against Wales; England lost both their opening games. Even with the slow start there was still an electric atmosphere surrounding the clash at Wembley. 11 train loads of supporters arrived in London from Glasgow the night before the game. The opening 45 minutes were closely contested, with Huddersfield Town’s Alex Jackson and Preston’s Alex James putting the Scots ahead before half-time. The second half  became one of the most memorable in Scottish football history.  Jackson completed his hat-trick and James scored a second putting the visitors up five goals to nil against their fierce rivals. A minute from time the English managed to grab a consolation but the party in the away crowd had already started. The Wizards would never be selected en masse again following their triumph across the border.

Unofficial Champions of the World

England followed their 1966 World Cup win with a 19 game unbeaten run. Their impressive form would be halted at Wembley in 1967 by familiar foes Scotland. The Scots went into this match as the clear underdogs even though they started four of Celtic’s Lisbon Lions and stars such as Denis Law, Jim Baxter and Billy Bremner. The visitors took the lead early on with a Law goal. Lennox would double their lead with just 12 minutes left on the clock. English talisman Jack Charlton did suffer an injury early on but manager Alf Ramsay was unable to sub him off, therefore he decided to put Charlton up front. This seemed to be a stroke of genius when Charlton scored the first goal for England. Jim McCalliog soon re-established the Scot’s two goal lead making the score 3-1. Geoff Hurst managed to score a goal a minute later but it wasn’t enough for the reigning world champions. Jim Baxter famously toyed with his opponents by doing keepie uppies during the dying embers of the game. After the game Scotland playfully claimed that they were the unofficial world champions.

Jim Baxter celebrating with fans following the shock win

The Invasion of Wembley

The 1977 face-off with the ‘Auld Enemy’ is less remembered for the 90 minute match but more for the scenes following it. Gordon McQueen thundered Scotland ahead when he met a crossed free-kick with a powerful header. Kenny Dalglish then doubled the lead by scrambling the ball over the line. Mick Channon converted a late penalty kick two minutes from time but it would only be a consolation for England. After the final whistle the Tartan Army rushed the pitch in celebration. Fans were lifting their heroes in the air and scaling the framework of the goals, eventually breaking the crossbar. 

Welcome to the Gazza Show

The last time Scotland qualified for the Euros was in 1996 and they were also drawn in a group with England. Before the game at Wembley, Flower of Scotland was drowned out by boos coming from the home crowd. The first 45 minutes were closely fought, finishing 0-0 with Scotland having the better of the chances. Alan Shearer put England ahead early on in the second half with a headed goal. A Tony Adams’ foul in the 76th minute gave the Scot the opportunity to equalise from the spot. Gary McAllister’s pen was saved, infamously spoon-bender Uri Geller claimed to have moved the ball from the spot whilst he sat in a helicopter hovering above Wembley. Minutes later Paul Gascoigne, who was plying his trade for Rangers at the time, scored one of the most iconic goals in the competitions history. Gazza cheekily dinked the ball over Colin Hendry’s head before lashing a volley home, doubling their lead. Scotland would fail to qualify from the group and England would crash-out in the semi-final.

Last Minute Heartbreak at Hampden

It has been four years since Scotland last faced the ‘Auld Enemy’ in an instant classic at Hampden. The first 45 minutes ended goalless but it was followed by a breathtaking second half. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain finished from close-range in the 70th minute and with three minutes to go it all but looked like England had cemented the win, until they gave away a free-kick. Leigh Griffths stepped up and hit a curling effort past a diving Joe Hart. Scotland got another free-kick given their way, once again Leigh Griffths stepped up to stun their historic rival, sending the Tartan Army into a frenzy. Strachan’s men were seconds away from beating England for the first time since 1999 before Harry Kane tapped a volley in at the back post to equalise.

“When I look back on my career, I look back on it with a smile” Clare Gemmell Interview

By Colin Byiers

Following the conclusion to the SWPL season, one of the games most recognised names, Clare Gemmell, played her final game as she is to hang up her boots. In a career that has seen her play at the highest level, including the Champions League, Clare got a well deserved send off from her club and those within the game.

I was lucky enough to be able to have been able to speak with Clare shortly after her finally game, as we spoke about her decision to retire, what’s next and her thoughts on the women’s game in this country.

So, Clare, you’ve made the decision to hang up the boots, what made you decide that this was the time to do it?

It’s actually something I’ve been thinking about, and I knew it was coming all season, even from the initial start of the season. There’s a combination of factors. I’m obviously getting a wee bit older now, and in an amazing way the women’s game in this country has come on a long way. I also work, so this is only part-time for me, and I just felt it was the right time for me to call it a day. I always wanted to go out at the top level, so being at a really good club, (Rangers Women FC), I knew I wanted to end my career at the club. So, in a funny way it was an easy decision to make but a hard one at the same time.

What’s the response been like from people within the game to your retirement?

To be honest, I’ve been so overwhelmed. After the final home game, I didn’t know any of that was going to happen, with the guard of honour and things. People who I have played with over the years have said so many kind things about me and that’s taken me a back slightly, how much I have influenced the game. Which is really nice for me to have done something, even if it’s in a small way, to help the game or help the players around me. It’s really humbling and emotional and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to retire.

If I could, I would play forever! Unfortunately, your body doesn’t allow you to do that. For me it’s the right decision, and when I look back on the last couple of weeks and the response from everybody else and the club and the send-off I got, it’s made me know I’ve done the right thing. I take pride in the fact it was my own decision and wasn’t because of an injury or petering out on a bench for years. I liked the fact I had control over it myself, and it was on my terms and even though I knew it was coming, maybe others didn’t, you have time to prepare yourself, or at least you think you do! For a lot of athletes, it can be a difficult transition because playing has been such a big part of your life, so I don’t know myself how I’m going to be in the weeks and months ahead, especially when pre-season starts. Right now won’t affect me as much because everyone is on a break anyway, but when you know people are back for pre-season and start watching the games and you are not involved with that, I don’t know how I will be. Because I knew it was coming, I have made peace with the fact I won’t be playing, but I just hope the women’s game continues to go up and up and it’s such a good thing to see and I’m privileged to have done it for so long.

I’d like to go back to the start of your footballing journey and ask how you started in the game?

I’ve been kicking a ball around since I can remember! So much credit has to go to my Granda. I used to kick a ball around with him with the little balls when I was about 4 and he used to take on a Saturday morning to a boy’s club in Port Glasgow, where I lived. At the time, I was swimming from the age of 7 to 12, and when I turned 12, I decided I wanted to give up swimming and I wanted to play football for a girls’ team. At the time, my Granda made some enquiries, and I went to Largs Girls, which doesn’t exist anymore. That’s where my career started, and it took off from there.

When I first started, there wasn’t a lot of coaching involved on the women’s game, it was more just go and play. At Largs, it was two women running the team, and coaching wasn’t their thing, but what a job they done. It was just about giving girls a platform to play football. There were good players in that team. I played with Jo Love, so still some familiar faces in the game, but there wasn’t much coaching. That came later in my career.

Do you think there might have been a lot of girls and young women that have been lost to the game because of the lack of coaching or facilities?

I played with so many players over the years that had potential, and though a number of different factors, like having to travel because there wasn’t a team around where they stayed. This generation coming through don’t realise how lucky they are because they can be professional, but a lot of folk had jobs and they were tying to balance all of that along with training. Back then, we only trained twice a week and played on a Sunday, so the intensity of what’s expected has massively increased and that probably started 10 years ago, so I’m not surprised so many players left the game. Because it becomes a balancing act and you need to live, but I’m a stubborn person and I wasn’t going to give it up! It’s just meant so much to me playing football. I love the sport so much and being part of a group, you can’t get that anywhere else. I love to win, and if you heard what other people say about me, I’m quite aggressive and passionate when I play! It’s the winning and the competing, I just had to have it as part of my life.

You had been with Rangers for 7 years, what was it like joining them?

I was brilliant, it’s such a good club. Before that, I was at Hamilton Accies, which was a really good side. It was Kevin Murphy who brought me in at Hamilton and after 2 seasons, Kevin moved to Rangers and asked to go and I really respected him as a coach, and as a manager and as a person, so I was absolutely up for giving it a go and I don’t regret it.

Was there any indication that early on that the club would move into being a full-time club?

There were always rumblings within the women’s game about wanting to do it, but what it comes down to is money. Off the back of the Women’s World Cup (2019), when Scotland did so well, I think it kick started that. The country had to take notice that this is going somewhere and thankfully, not just Rangers, but other clubs have as well, bought into that vision and helped to push it forward. I know some many people over the years have been trying to fight for it, but it has to be at the right time, but I’m just thankful it’s finally happened. Going full-time has meant that you can put your full focus into it and you’re not having to worry about a second job and balancing them. It also means you can focus on other parts of the game. If you are part-time or amateur, you can only get a couple of hours to work on everything, where as full-time, you get 6 hours a day, two sessions a day, lunch there, you are getting looked after by the medical staff and backroom staff, so there is no question it gives them a huge benefit and it’s one that I hope other clubs can find the funding and find a way to do it can only benefit the game as well.

Was one of the highlights of your career becoming Rangers captain?

It’s a privilege to be captain regardless of what team you are at. I think it shows the value that a club and a team put in you. It’s not the first club I’ve captained, but it’s the best club I’ve captained so it’s been such a privilege. Over the years, it’s been such a good group of girls, it’s made my job easy. If you ask anybody, and I certainly try to be this way, I’m pretty honest, so if someone is looking for advice from me, I’ll tell them exactly what I think, but I’ll also back that up with how I can make them better, and I think folk over the years have respected that about me. It’s all about opinions and folk look for different things in a captain and sometimes you need to adapt and change for different people.

Knowing that this was your final season, did you have any targets you wanted to achieve?

Obviously, I wanted to win the league! I think we played some really good football this year, but ultimately you need to score goals to win leagues and we didn’t manage that in key games. So, in a way, I’m disappointed not to have done that, or at least get Champions League football because the girls worked so hard and they deserved something out of the season, but that’s the way football is, and you need to take it on the chin. They can look back on it and take it into next season to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and I have every faith they will do that because it’s such a good group.

How emotional was your final home game, the win against Motherwell?

It really was. It was more emotional because it was the first time, I heard other folk saying I was retiring. When you hear it out loud from someone else, it’s almost like there’s no going back now. I managed to keep it together on the pitch thankfully, but when I went into the changing room and looked on Twitter, and when I seen all the messages, that was me gone. I was crying half the night! I think it just means how much the sport means that I had that reaction. After the initial shock, I was fine and even after the game against Glasgow City, which was the final game for me, I had come to terms with it. It was really emotional. Happy and sad.

And typically, you managed to get on the scoresheet.

That was a must! I was asked to play a litter deeper that game, and I was like “come on, I want to score!”, and thankfully in the later stage of the game when Daina (Bourma) came on, she said she would sit for me so I could get forward. I managed to get in the box and score a header, but I should have scored in the first half, when I was through on goal and a couldn’t miss, but I did! I did manage to score in the 80th minute and it was a nice way to round off my final home game.

You also received a guard of honour at the end too.

I didn’t know what was happening. Then the next minute everyone was lining up. I’ve played with a lot of the Motherwell girls over the years as well, so I knew a few of them so it was nice to see familiar faces on both sides. It was a nice thing to do, and the club didn’t have to do that for me, Motherwell didn’t have to do that for me, but I’m honoured they did do that for me.

When you look back at your career, can you sum it all up?

I’ve so much. Thinking about success, I played at Glasgow City for 5 years, which was at the start of this 14-in-a-row that they have managed and what an achievement that is and even though I’ve been at Rangers for 7 years, I’ve been apart of that. I’ve played in the Champions League, I got offered to go on trial in Germany when I was 24, played under 19’s for Scotland. I’ve had so many highs in my career, that other people just haven’t been able to do, and it makes me smile and positive when I look back over it.

So, what does the future hold for you?

I don’t want to walk away from the game completely, I don’t think I’d be able to. Even if I go and watch a game, I’ll still be standing shouting from the side! I’d like to remain at Rangers in some capacity. I’ve had discussions with them about how that would look, but I’ve got a lot of experience in the game, I’ve seen it transition from where it was 20 years ago to where it is now, so I’ve been through a lot, and I think it would be a waste if I didn’t pass that on in some way.

Finally, I’d like to get your thoughts on the women’s game in Scotland. Where do you see it on a national level?

There is no reason why it can’t follow these other counties across Europe and in England in terms of the structure of women’s football, but what folk need to realise is that the have had so many more years at it than we have, so we are right at the start, and it takes time. For me, women and men’s football, yes, it’s the same game, but it’s different. Women should be looked at in their own merit, and it’s about giving the game time to develop to see what it’s going to look like. When clubs are turning professional, they do that because they have a vision of the game, but in 5 years’ time, that vision might be different because of so many outside factors. The most important thing is that it keeps going forward, it can’t stand still. It’s about pushing the game and trying to attract better players into playing in this country and then encourage fans to come and support whatever team they support. It’s also about being role models for the younger girls and that gets them into the sport also and all that leads to giving it a better base. I know it won’t stop here and it will continue to improve and I’m glad it’s finally happening. You look at the talent in the national squad, some play in this country but most play all over the World. If you look back 10 or 15 years ago, maybe one or two played else where across the World, so the fact that these girls are playing in leagues that have been doing it for a lot longer than we have and playing with better players, it’s no coincidence that the national team is pushing on and doing better. We will have success in the national team I’m sure and there are some class players in there.

Thanks to Clare for taking the time to speak with us.

“I’m disappointed with the way the season went” Tommy Muir Q&A

By Colin Byiers

Tommy Muir recently moved to Stranraer from fellow League 2 side Stenhousemuir, and it was third time lucky for The Blues manager Stevie Farrell, as he finally gets is man. Muir has a glowing reputation with managers in the Scottish Lower Leagues and has had to make difficult phone calls to reputable managers to tell them that he would not be joining them.

I had the chance to speak with Tommy following his move as we spoke about the ambitions for the new season, his time as Annan, Stenny and Dalbeattie Star, as well as the prospect of playing in front of fans again.

Firstly Tommy, how pleased are you that you have joined Stranraer and got the deal done early?

I’m really pleased. It’s something has been on the pipeline for a bit now. I spoke to the Stranraer manager (Stevie Farrell) the last two pre-seasons about joining the club but for various reasons it hasn’t come off. When I spoke to him this year it was really positive, and I know a couple of the boys that are there. They had a really positive season so hopefully we can go one step further and achieve promotion back into League 1.

What does it do for you as a player and personally knowing that you are going to be playing for a manager who has been chasing you for 2 years?

It gives you a really big confidence boost especially after having quite a frustrating season myself, with a couple of injuries and it being quite stop/start, so for him to still come in for me this year is a big confidence boost. He obviously like me and likes the way I play. If I go out and play my normal, that’s the reason he’s signed me, so if I do what I do normally and what I’ve before, he’ll be happy.

You mentioned that things didn’t work out previously when Stranraer came in for you, so what was the difference this time round?

The first time Stranraer came in for me, they were in League 1 and I just had my first season at Annan, scoring 15 goals. I was on holiday when the manager contacted me, but I just felt like I had just got started at Annan, off the back of a good season, and I was really happy at Annan. I felt I didn’t need to move, and I was happy there and wanted to play there for a second season. Last year, I had spoken to Stenhousemuir and it was pretty much a done deal before Stranraer came in, and I didn’t want to go back on my word with Stenny. This season, I had a couple of options, but the Stranraer option was the one that appealed to me the most. There wasn’t much to think about once the manager spoke with me and I just had a gut feeling it was the right place to go. I couldn’t say no three times in a row to be fair! It was an option I hoped would come up. Hopefully I can repay the managers faith and get a few goals and be a positive signing for the club.

For those who may not know your career to date so far, tell me about your time at Dalbeattie Star, where you started your career.

I was top scorer there for 2 years in a row. I grew up in Dalbeattie and I was training with them while I was still at the school, but it was Paul McGinley and Raymond Gallacher who took me in. Sometimes for the training I was in goals if they didn’t have a keeper. I collected the balls, collected the cones and things. I just started doing things like that while still playing local youth football. Dalbeattie were in the Lowland League when it started and had a really strong, so I dipped in and out of training depending on what game was coming up at the weekend. After my youth football finished, they took me in for the season and the original plan was to put me out on loan, but I had a positive preseason and they kept me. I made the bench and made a few appearances and scored a couple of goals. There was a bit of uncertainty when the manager left and the new one came in, but he, (Darren Kerr), played me as first choice striker even at the age of 17. I ended up playing a fair few games and scored a few goals too, so that’s how it all started really.

Annan was your next club, where you enjoyed another couple of good seasons.

Yeah, it was off the back of a good season with Dalbeattie. They were fighting relegation and I scored 15 goals, and we finished second bottom and stayed up on the last day of the season. I had already signed up with Dalbeattie for the following season, but the manager phoned me saying that they had Annan wanting me to go in there for a trial. It wasn’t an easy thing to do because I had a good couple of seasons with Dalbeattie and they had been really good with me, and I still stayed there, but trying League football was a big thing for me. I had a decent trail period at Annan and obviously offered me a deal. Dalbeattie were good enough not to step in the way and released me; never took a fee for me or anything. So, a big credit to Dalbeattie Star for doing that, especially after being their top goal scorer.

My first season at Annan was excellent. I was lucky to make my debut against Hamilton in the BetFred Cup as the striker was injured and I started the game. I had a good game and it set the tone for the rest of the season. In my second season, I scored my first hat trick against Cove Rangers in November down at Galabank. It was actually our team night out in Newcastle that night, and I don’t know what happened, but we somehow managed to beat Cove 6-1! It was a mad day that was followed by a mad night as well! That was one of my highlights at Annan, beating Cove 6-1. It was quite a shock to people and even for us.

Last year, you moved to Stenhousemuir and joined another manager who had been watching you for a while, as manager Davie Irons admitted he had been keeping tabs on you for 18 months.

Davie is local to my area too, so I had spoken to a few boys and asked how he was, and nobody could have spoken about him any higher than they did. Nobody had a bad word to say about him and they thought he could improve me as a player. I was delighted to go into Stenny, because they are a decent sized club. I’m just disappointed by the kind of season it was between Covid and injuries and the season being stopped. With Covid, I never played in front of the supporters, and you don’t meet as many people from the board as you normally would. It was just a funny season to be there to be honest. It’s a pity that we never got a proper full season at it. I’d be lucky if I had played 20 games, so it was definitely a short stint at Stenny.

What was it like linking up with Mark McGuigan?

What a guy Mark is! Before you talk about how good a footballer he is, he’s a great guy, really professional and doesn’t let anything get to him either. He went through a spell when I first joined where he wasn’t in the picture really, but he trained hard, turned up on time and his attitude was excellent. It’s the first time I had seen someone almost get shut out, but his attitude was brilliant. Credit to him for that. Once he did come into the team, he was someone I liked playing with. He liked playing as a two. He wasn’t selfish. He made runs that helped me and vice versa. I enjoyed playing up front with him and I learned a bit from him as well. He’s a big player and will be a big lose to Stenny this year. He’ll go into League 1 and do well and might even push East Fife into the play-offs.

Your new manager, Stevie Farrell, spoke of his disappointment at losing in the Play-offs. Is that the target again for the club, to be in the Play-off’s again?

100%. I was disappointed to see that as I had already signed, so was hoping to see them get into League 1, but it wasn’t meant to be. The season coming up, we’ve got to be looking at the play-off’s, but it’s going to be a very strong league. League 2 is becoming a league where there are no games you are expected to win any more. Every game is competitive, and anyone can take points from anyone. Albion Rovers struggled for a spell and then went on a massive run and scored 5 away from home at Elgin.

After the disappointment of last season, what’s your personal goals or aims?

It’s about trying to get as many games as I can and get as many goals as I can, plus shack off a few niggling injuries that have come from impacts, so it’s been quite unfortunate really. I mean, I had a kick to the foot and fractured my metatarsal, and then got pulled down from a corner and my own defender has landed on me and done my MCL in my knee. So, silly things like that. Hopefully I can get a season where I don’t get suspensions or injuries. With the strikers that Stevie has had at Stranraer, he likes to rotate them, so that probably helps keep you fresh. So, going into this season, it’s about getting into the play-offs, staying injury free, playing as many games as possible and scoring as many goals as I can.

Are you looking forward to the prospect of playing in front of fans again?

It’s massive. The fans are brilliant! Even the away fans. The best bit about football is the supporters. It’s not been the same at all this year, it’s like training games. Not that it should affect you, but even just a couple of hundred fans gives you that extra buzz and then you have away fans giving you abuse: it’s brilliant! That’s football and that’s how it should be. It’s been tough without the fans to be honest. I think they will bring the standard of the games up and bring the competitiveness up as well. Obviously, if you are losing then they will be on your back, or if you are winning, they will be encouraging you to push on. Supporters back in the grounds will be massive and I hope it happens soon.

Thanks to Tommy for taking part in the Q&A and good luck for the season ahead.