This interview was published in the Official Dunfermline Athletic Football Club Match-Day Programme on the 1st September 2018, versus Inverness Caledonian Thistle at East End Park.
Thanks to DAFC for allowing me to post my article to my website.
Danny Devine has played in the English Championship, in two Cup Finals and in a Europa League tie… but the centre-back admits he has been “amazed” by the volume of support shown towards Dunfermline at the beginning of this term, since his summer switch from Partick Thistle.
Devine, who turns 26 on the 7th of September, began his career in his native Northern Ireland with Linfield before moving to Preston North End in 2009.
“I always used to just play football with my mates when I was a kid. I first joined a team when I was 7 or 8 but I was just having a bit of fun. As I got older, I began to take it a bit more seriously. I was 16 and I had just finished 5th year at High School when my move to England came about. I was playing a match for Linfield and a scout was there from Preston and they offered me a trial; I went across a couple of times before being offered a deal to join them permanently.
I think it is something in which I was never going to turn down, but, also one in which it was difficult to move away from my family and friends, to another country, at such a young age – I was going into the unknown.”
As the 2010-11 season approached its conclusion, Danny was given game-time for the Lilywhites against Ipswich Town and Watford in the English Championship.
“I spent two years in the youth team and at the end of that term, I signed a 1-year contract as a professional player. It was great for me at the time: the experiences I had at such a young age was good, but, following a spell in League One, I moved on to sign for Wrexham. However, I was only there for half a season before I made the switch up north in the January.”
It was a move to Inverness Caledonian Thistle which brought Devine to Scotland, signing for the Highlanders in the Winter Transfer Window of 2013.
“It was another big decision for me as I was settled in Wales and I know Wrexham wanted to keep me. It is a move which has paid off for me, in the end. At the time, Inverness were doing really well – I think they were second or third in the league under Terry Butcher. I knew it was a risk, even though they were up the right end of the league, but, I was willing to take that risk after speaking with my agent and Terry. A few months prior, I was playing with Preston, so, I was used to the higher standard and level; moving from Wrexham into the Scottish Premiership, there was definitely a jump, so, I would say it took me a couple of matches to get used to that and get up to speed. It was important for me to adapt my game as quickly as possible to make an impression at this level.
I always knew moving to the Highlands was going to be tough: to even think about winning the League Cup or the Scottish Cup was not really on the agenda to begin with, but, we improved season upon season. We had a lot of good players – and two good managers – at that time which is typified by the success which was brought to the club during that specific period. When I made moved up north, Terry was a massive influence on me moving from Wrexham; he had all the boys on his side and playing for him, and as a player, that is always good to see. When you enjoy coming in to training every day, that gives the whole group a massive lift and I would say Terry definitely set the ball rolling for what was to happen next.”
Devine would make 16 appearances for Caley Thistle the following season as Inverness lost out to Aberdeen on penalties in the League Cup Final at Celtic Park.
“John Hughes came in during the winter of that season and they were very different: Terry was no-nonsense, get the ball into the opposition’s half and scoring goals. It was much more direct compared to when Yogi came in; to be fair to him, he has his own style and that was something in which the lads all took to very quickly as our success continued.
We were doing well in the league, we were winning lots of matches and our confidence was high, but, at that time, we just took everything game-by-game. When cup games came around, it was just “business as usual” as we just wanted to win the match, get through to the next round and keep the momentum going.”
The 2014/15 campaign started off difficulty for Danny as niggling injuries kept him side-lined until February, however, good form saw him play a big part as ICT lifted the Scottish Cup.
“To be honest, when we went into the semi-final against Celtic, when the odds are stacked against you, and manage to come through it then we knew we had a right good chance of going on to lift silverware come May. As we started the season so well, boys were in the team performing well ahead of me, which was tough for me. We seemed to be winning every week and on-form for the majority of games and that showed in where we finished that campaign. We had a very good group of players and that is what lead us to such heady heights, in my opinion.
We had a sense of disappointment and regret following the Aberdeen game. Don’t get me wrong, they were a good team too back then, but, it was a pretty boring game: 0-0 all the way through until penalties, so, to lose it that way, it was hard to take. With it being a very similar group the following term for us, we showed a determination to go and put it right in the final against Falkirk.”
In a dramatic afternoon at Hampden Park, Devine would pick up the first winners medal of his senior career.
“We were getting 3 or 4,000 at Inverness for a league match so to play in front of 15,000+ Caley fans that day was a different experience: it was surreal with the stadium being packed and the atmosphere electric. It is a day I will never forget. During the game, I felt we had a really good first-half and we probably should have been more than 1-0 up, but, credit to Falkirk, in the second-half, they came out and put us under immense pressure. Carlo [Carl Tremarco] was sent-off and it was one of they moments when it happened that we just knew we had to try see the game out as Falkirk were pushing forward. It was a feeling of not wanting to concede, but, the minutes were beginning to drag on and it was just a hope of holding on.
We were under so much pressure, so, when Marley [Watkins] got the ball, I remember saying to myself “come on mate, hold up the ball and do something for us”. When he had the shot, I thought that the chance was over to be honest; I didn’t see Vinny [James Vincent] running in support until he hit the ball in the net! I honestly didn’t know he was there, but, once it hit the net, it was just a massive sense of relief. Having been down to 10 men, to get that goal and to win the game, it was an amazing experience.”
Another highlight for Devine during his spell at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium was an appearance in the Europa League against Romanian side Astra Giurgiu.
“That was another amazing night for myself, personally, as well as the club. We won the cup and had done well in the league the season prior, so, this was our reward, by getting to test ourselves against a good side. We ran them really close and could’ve got a win over in their place to have ended the tie as a draw, so, it was an incredible appearance. Obviously, when I first joined the club I was only 19 or 20 so I was still quite young, especially as a centre-back. I just wanted to play games and win football matches. I wanted to push on with my career and I found it tough in my first season as there was so many quality players within the squad – I had to bide my time, work hard and prove myself to everyone. It was an experience I will never forget and I thoroughly enjoyed my time up there. I still get on really well and have a lot of mates who still play with Inverness, so, I still have a lot of feelings for that part of the world and overall, my spell there is one I will look back on with great fondness.”
But, come the summer of 2016, Danny moved on to Partick Thistle where he’d spend two seasons under the guidance of Alan Archibald.
“The time was probably right to move on: especially when someone shows interest in you. It can turn your head a little bit and I saw it as a chance to move on to the next step in my career by trying something new. I wanted to try experience different things at a different club – my decision wasn’t easy as I loved the club, the lads and the city, but, the time came for myself to go to pastures new. The appeal of moving to Glasgow was a big draw for me, too. My first season there was absolutely brilliant. We done really well that season as we finished in the top 6. We put an amazing run together in the final part of the season and it was a great occasion when we finally sealed our spot in the top half of the division. To then go on to having such a bad season last term, with the relegation after falling at the last hurdle in the play-offs, it was very disappointing. It is a feeling I hope to never come across again – if I had to sum up my time with Partick Thistle, I would definitely say bitter-sweet.
There were a number of things that led to our relegation – we had 9 or 10 first-team boys out injured and that doesn’t help when the manager has his ideas about how he wants the team to play. The lengthy injury list and how long they would be out for was a major hurdle we had to try get over as the manager then had to try bring new faces in and we had to try gel really quickly. I still think it took us a while to get going and then it all fell apart towards the end of the term. To compare the play-offs to the cup finals is difficult as in the final of a tournament, you are going out there with a bounce in your step whereas in the play-offs, you are carrying so much pressure with jobs on the line. This is a totally different pressure to that of a cup final, 100%, and it is one I hope to never go through again.”
After leaving Firhill following their relegation to Scotland’s second-tier, Devine joined the Pars on a 2-year deal.
“I was out of contract and they wanted to make changes. I went on holiday while my agent spoke with a couple of clubs and then Dunfermline came up. I knew a lot about the club and how big a team this is. I wanted to come here to enjoy my football again: I want to get last season out of my system, by getting back to winning football matches, so, to come here was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. I already knew how well we done the season before – with us missing out during the play-offs – while I also heard about how good the manager and the fans are at Dunfermline. I knew it was an environment I would enjoy and thrive within. I have really enjoyed it so far.
The 3-5-2 formation is something I am very familiar and comfortable with. The manager making that switch hasn’t affected me at all and I think the other lads have really taken to it as well. We are really beginning to enjoy it now. First and foremost, my priority is to keep clean-sheets, but, I also feel it is our responsibility to help the forward-going boys and help the goal-scorers within the team in that sense, too. If you ask the other boys, they will tell you the same that we focus on defending first, but, if we can chip in with assists and goals during the season then we will try achieve that.”
Danny admits he is “impressed with the quality” that has been assembled at East End Park for the 2018-19 campaign.
“I think the fans will see that when they watch us this year, that we have a really good group of players this season. We have the ability to be up there at the top of the Championship and pushing for promotion. I have no doubts about that: I feel if we aren’t up there come May then we should all be disappointed, but, that is down to us on the pitch to make sure we perform well every single week and to keep the consistency levels up.”
With around 180 games and 6 goals to Devine’s name so far in his senior career, the defender will be hoping to get one over his former employers this afternoon.
“There is always areas of your game where you feel you could have done this or that or you can still do better in and that is the same for myself, but, I am looking forward to the future with Dunfermline. I want to push on; do more and get even better. My message to the supporters would be thank you for your support so far this season as I have been amazed at the numbers you have turned up in consistently each week. The crowds, especially in the Championship, are fantastic and it shows the appetite the whole town and surrounding areas have for this club, our club. I want you to know that myself and the boys will do everything on a match-day to make you feel happy and leave the stadium in a good mood. Hopefully we can pick up another 3 points this afternoon in what will be a very tough match, but, with your support – both in number and in voice – can really help us get to where we want to be come the end of the season.”