David Rainey: 'Leaving Crues was very hard to take but my dad was right when he said Linfield weren't the right club for me'
Ex-Crues hitman David Rainey on heartbreak of having to leave Seaview,the support of his family, and the move into management
Q. What are your early football memories?
A. I played Old Boys football before moving to Knockbreda when I was 18 for two years. Alan Campbell, the Ballyclare manager, made a move for me, much to the disappoint of Colin Russell.
He was losing his top goalscorer and he's probably still a bit annoyed about it. It was a step up for me.
Q. You went on to win every domestic medal and can reflect on an amazing career. Has it surprised you?
A. I never could have imagined I would enjoy such a successful Irish League career. I didn't play in any schoolboy teams.
I was happy at Knockbreda but got a lucky break when Alan discovered me while he was tracking another player. He took a gamble on me and I'll never forget what he said… 'How do you fancy playing for the worst team in the Irish League?' They weren't the worst team!
It was a brilliant opportunity and learning curve. Two seasons later Glentoran came in for me. Tommy Cassidy was trying to get me to Glentoran but he lost his job and I thought the move was off. Roy Coyle was interested in taking me to Ards and when he went to the Glens he signed me and it worked out really well.
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Q. Was there a chance for you to have a shot at the professional game?
A. I had a 10-day trial at Port Vale after my first season at Ballyclare. I can remember talking to journalist Steven Beacom on the way home from an awards presentation in Dublin and I told him I had trials with Port Vale.
I told him if it didn't work out I wanted to make a name for myself in the Irish League and that's what happened in my career.
John McCarthy, who played for Northern Ireland, looked after me very well. He felt I had done enough but manager John Rudge said he couldn't take a gamble on me.
Q. Were you gutted after that?
A. Big time. It hurt more because the players had said I did well and my hopes were raised. It was difficult to train again. It was my first real setback in football.
Alan (Campbell) told me to sort myself out as I couldn't feel sorry for myself forever. Thankfully I did that and Glentoran signed me.
The year after I joined, the Glens won the league title. It's my only league winner's medal.
Q. Which of your trophy wins means the most?
A. The Irish Cup in 2009 was special because Crusaders hadn't won the prize in a long time (since 1968) and it was against Cliftonville.
The Setanta Cup was also special and the semi-final win in Sligo will always live with me. They might have assumed it was going to be a walk in the park but we beat them 2-0 at Seaview and Colin Coates' penalty in extra-time down there won it.
All the lads were getting bookings, we had no legs left but we hung in there. We lost to Linfield in the Irish Cup Final, which was a kick in the stones but in the Setanta Cup Final we gave it everything and got a bit of luck.
At least one of their goals should have been given as a foul committed by me. We had worked on stopping the keeper (Ger Doherty) coming out for the ball in training, giving Coatesy a free hit and I blocked the keeper both times. You wouldn't get away with it now.
Q. What was your lowest moment on the pitch?
A. I've never had a really bad injury. I've two Irish Cup Final defeats and I'd say having to leave Crusaders was probably the lowest point of my career. I had eight years there and loved everything about it.
It was one big family and I never thought the day would come when I would be let go. I thought it might be my decision but Stephen (Baxter) decided he wasn't in a position to re-sign me. I thought he was bringing in fresh blood and I was 36. I thought I had another year or two left in me and I didn't get a testimonial either.
The money doesn't appeal to me as much as the recognition, a club acknowledging the service you have given them.
There was no disappointment with Stephen personally, it was just a shame to leave a club I loved. It was a case of 'what do I do now?'
Lucky enough, I got a call from Gary Hamilton and Glenavon were always a club I admired for their professionalism. I spoke to Gary and big Windy (Paul Millar) and it was an opportunity I couldn't refuse.
Gary gives young players a chance and some of them have moved into full-time football. We went on to win an Irish Cup which was great for the club.
Q. Were you disappointed you didn't taste league success with Crusaders?
A. I was delighted for the team. We don't know if it would have happened if I was there. Gavin Whyte, Paul Heatley and Jordan Owens were up front so where would I have fitted in? An impact sub?
It would have been nice to get a clean sweep of trophies with one club but I have every medal and it's nice memories to have.
Q. When you reflect on you career, is there anything you would have done differently?
A. Trained harder as a kid. In today's game kids need to be athletes as well as good footballers. The lads are hitting the gym and you need to be strong, almost built like a boxer.
If someone had told me when I was 15 I could have had a chance across the water if I had trained harder it might have given me a better chance. I certainly would have been a better player.
I think I started to realise my potential at Glentoran. I can remember watching Paul Merson and Paul Gascoigne who were amazing footballers but not great athletes.
I think in the modern game the players must be in better physical condition. With the medical advances we have seen, the players should be in peak condition.
Q. Who has been the best player you have played with and toughest opponent?
A. Mickey Donnelly at Cliftonville didn't give you any change or Marty Tabb. Tommy McDonald was very solid too, always winning the ball and a hard man. Noel Bailie was amazing at sweeping up the ball and Gary Smyth was a great player.
Q. Could you pick your favourite 11 from players you have played with in your career?
A. In goals, Sean O'Neill, a great character and friend of mine. At left-back John Kennedy was great but Stephen McBride gets the nod. Right-back, Gareth McKeown, he was unreal on his day and he won the Setanta Cup for me. Coatesy and Winkie Murphy in the centre.
In midfield, I never played with Gavin Whyte so I'd stick Rory Hamill on the right. When I first went to the Glens he had great power, strength and running ability. Paul Leeman in midfield with Declan Caddell for his great engine. On the left I'll go with Paul Heatley.
He could frustrate me by shooting from a stupid angle instead of cutting the ball back but what a player.
Up front, Jordan Owens and Stuart Dallas. On the bench I'll leave myself, Davy Magowan, Gary Hamilton and Justin McBride.
Q. Stephen Baxter said you were one of the best signings he made at Crusaders, how did that make you feel?
A. It is special and it shows there's no hard feelings.
I joked he only said that because he let me go but he obviously means it.
The club were down and out and if we hadn't bounced back into the Premiership at the first time of asking the taxman would have closed the gates.
I scored a lot of goals, we won the Steel and Sons Cup, the League Cup at that level and league championship. We won the three competitions we entered and only lost one match.
I think the money generated by the Fulham game in the Europa League was crucial.
The players did their bit on the pitch while Tommy Whiteside and Mark Langhammer worked hard behind the scenes.
What the club has achieved is incredible. I scored about 139 goals for the Crues, which I'm very proud of. I scored a spectacular bicycle kick at Dungannon and there's a photograph of it on the wall at Seaview.
I never scored an Irish Cup Final goal but you can't have everything. I can remember Davy Magowan picking up five bookings in 40 games and being suspended for the Cup Final. That's wrong and I was very disappointed for him.
Q. You're entering the murky world of management at Albert Foundry. Is it something you always wanted to do?
A. No, I never saw myself as a manager, maybe a coach or a go-between but the opportunity arose to take charge as player-manager at Albert Foundry.
I've brought in Marty Young who will be a great assistant. I've been focused on rebuilding the team and bringing in fresh faces. I'm hoping to do my coaching badges. They are quite expensive to do which I think is wrong.
When you have a player who has played for 25 years at the top two levels in the country, the Irish FA should make an effort to tap into that experience and help you get on the coaching ladder.
Q. Has your family been supportive?
A. They all have. William and Evelyn, my parents, have always looked out for me without trying to sway me in any football decisions. The only time my dad had an input was the time I was leaving Ballyclare and talking to Linfield manager David Jeffrey and Glentoran's Roy Coyle.
David invited me to Windsor and it just didn't feel right when we were talking in the boardroom. The chairman came in during the interview and Davy left the room.
My dad looked at me and said: 'This club's not for you son'.
Davy was wanting to rebuild Linfield and he wanted players with a real passion for the club. I'm sitting there thinking 'I'm a Glenman'. My dad spoke up and said: 'David you know my son supports the Glens but if he plays for you he'll give you 100%, I know that for a fact'.
I certainly would have as it was a big step in my career but it never felt right. I ended up going to Roy's house and the talks there were more intense.
Roy was ruthless and knew what he wanted. It ended up being the right move at the right time but not too many players could have banter with Roy. I found that out!
Q. Did your dad play football?
A. He used to play for Glebe in the late 1960s. He never tortured me with criticism. I learned very quickly to be self-critical.
Managers understand different personalities and the ones who care about their performances. I was a player who would be annoyed with myself if I wasn't playing well.
Q. Will you still play?
A. I can put myself on the bench and stay fit but ideally I'll not need to play. You don't want to give up football but I want to give everything to management.
When I'm not thinking about football I work on the night shift at Shorts.
Q. Tell us about your kids.
A. Luis is 12 and he plays for Paul Leeman's Dungoyne team. There's nights when he says he doesn't want to go to football and I won't push him into it. Sometimes I think that can work against you and him.
If you force them too much they can turn away from it. Hollie is 14 and Megan is 17.
Hollie is a dancer for Olympus Girls and Megan was into gymnastics when she was younger.
She loves running and does a bit of cross-country. My family has always been very supportive.
Q. Is there a funny moment that stands out from your career?
A. I can remember being in Norway with Crusaders over July 12. On the Twelfth morning myself and Chicken (Jordan Owens) had made Union Jacks using crayons, put them on straws and attached them to a few players' doors.
I played a few tunes on the flute and the lads came out to see the flags. After breakfast I had a pretend parade and later on when we came back the lads had been back in the crayon room and plastered our doors with tricolour flags!
It was harmless banter and the boys thought it was very funny.
Date of birth: April 6, 1976
Place of birth: Belfast
Previous clubs: Ballyclare Comrades, Glentoran, Ards, Crusaders, Glenavon, H&W Welders
Current position: Albert Foundry player-manager