Prior to Linfield’s Irn-Bru Cup match with Dundee United at Tannadice, I got to know their goalkeeper for that evening, Gareth Deane – a 23-year-old who has been in the shadows of Northern Ireland International Roy Carroll recently and was given his chance to shine with the 40-year-old away on international duty. This is what the shot stopper had to say.
“I started my career at Hillsborough Boys Club before moving to Linfield’s Academy. I then signed for Queens Park Rangers in England. I learnt a lot from my time at QPR; I was training with the first-team goalkeepers every day. I was learning off of the best – Paddy Kenny and Radek Cerny were my colleagues and they have played hundreds of top flight matches.”
After leaving QPR, it was back to his former club for the youngster.
“Linfield were my boyhood club. I have supported them from a young age after I joined their Junior Blues Supporters Club. When I was leaving QPR, there was only one destination I was wanting to head to. When I made my debut in 2013, against Ballinamallard at Windsor Park, it was a fantastic experience: putting on that shirt and walking out in front of the fans, it was a boyhood dream of mines which came true!”
Deane moved on loan to Carrick Rangers shortly afterwards, however.
“My loan move benefitted me a lot as I got experience of playing in a really tough and physical league. Unfortunately, from my point of view, I was recalled shortly after the Christmas period when we were sitting top of the league, with a great chance of winning promotion. Despite missing out on that opportunity, it was great to return to Lindfield a more experienced player, who was match sharp and was now used to the demanding physical battles you get as a goalkeeper.”
Now, Deane works alongside former Manchester United goalkeeper, Roy Carroll. What experiences has Gareth gained from his time training with the Northern Irish international shot-stopper?
“Working with Roy every session is brilliant. The experiences Roy has and the level he has played at can only benefit me as a goalkeeper. Every player has to work hard in every session they partake in while also knowing that if you don’t play well on a match day, there is someone just as capable waiting to pull the shirt on and take your place on the field.”
“At Linfield, we have a great squad of players and every position has cover as well as the ability to replace someone without losing any quality. When you have someone with so much pedigree, having represented his country on numerous occasions, then you know it is hard but if I keep working hard, anything can happen. Representing my country is of course something I want to do, just like every play does. If I am lucky enough to get the opportunity to be involved in the senior squad, then I would love it as I have represented my country before at youth level where I have played for Northern Ireland Under-16’s all the way up to the Under-21’s. I was away with the 21’s last year so I missed out on this [Irn-Bru Cup] competition.”
How does the Irn-Bru Cup compare for Deane to normal league or cup action?
“At Linfield, every match matters and every competition we enter, we aim to win it. It is a competition we would like to win and we will give it another go next year. It is great for us to test ourselves against different opposition – we have faced Queen of the South, Spartans and Dundee United since we entered the competition last year and it has benefitted so much as we have learnt a lot in many differing areas from all three of those matches. It is difficult for us to come up against better opposition who are full-time but playing in Europe has helped us with that aspect, too.”
“For a club of our size, and the squad we have, to get the chance to play so many meaningful ties against good teams and fantastic players only helps us as we cannot do anything but improve.”
Deane was in goals for the late 1-0 loss to United but he is not disheartened.
“It is always good to get a game when you have been waiting for a while to remind the manager what you can do. I try to make the most of my opportunities; hopefully I can be a part of another successful squad this season who can win trophies and retain our titles. With the manager, David Healy, providing me with a 3-year-contract extension, it has shown the faith he has in me. I am a born-and-bred Linfield fan and I hope I can stay here for the rest of my career. As a player, you want to push yourself to the highest level and I always will but with the success we have built up recently, I see no reason why I cannot remain here while still achieving my hopes and expectations from the sport.”