Linfield Swifts boss David Dorrian on how football has helped him keep focus in the wake of personal tragedies.
Q. What sort of a playing career did you have?
A. Not too bad actually! As a young boy, I started off playing for UUJ in the old B Division. Jackie Hutton signed me for Crusaders but I was with the reserves and they had a great first team so it was hard to break through. I left to go to Distillery Reserves, where I played under Walter Mills and Marty Quinn. I ended up going to Brantwood under Ivor McGuckin. As I got older, I ended up playing for Nortel, my local team, in my 30s. I've worked with great people and picked up good habits along the way. I was in centre midfield and competitive. Like anything else in my life, I put my heart and soul into it.
Q. Who were your football heroes growing up?
A. I'm a Spurts supporter so Glenn Hoddle was an idol of mine, he was my hero. My late dad, Oliver, and granda, Robert Evans, were also Spurs supporters and my son was named Glenn. Friends joke he was named after Glentoran but it was definitely after Hoddle! He coaches with me at Linfield and is doing his coaching badges.
Q. Where did your passion for coaching come from?
A. I was always a studious person. I like to read, watch and learn. My first coaching role was at Greenisland Boys. I worked with Lawrence Gilloway and he was a massive influence on me. He taught me about organisation, passion for the game and understanding that it's not enough to be a good footballer. You look for good people and those with the right attitude. He taught me the importance of discipline and we are still friends. He's a legend in my eyes and a massive influence. I was fortunate to work with Ballyclare Comrades' under-18 side when Tommy Wright was youth development officer. That was a door to the Irish League for me and I also worked with Tommy at Limavady United and Ballymena United. I was travelling from Carnmoney to Limavady three times a week. People thought I was mad but I was learning a lot from Tommy and Jeff Montgomery. Tommy was a fantastic coach and man.
Q. As an emerging coach, you must have considered it a great education working with Tommy and Marty?
A. Tommy's organisational skills and attention to detail were unreal. When we were at Ballymena, he booked St Patrick's Barracks for us to do pre-season and when we arrived everything was marked out and you could see he was someone who came from a full-time background at Manchester City and Newcastle. He brought a new attitude to the club and it's unfortunate he didn't enjoy more success because he deserved it through his hard work and dedication. During my time at Ballymena, our team included Sean O'Neill, David Cushley, Johnny Flynn, Aaron Stewart and Stephen Lowry. It was an amazing bunch and we won the reserve league for the first time in the club's history. Tommy left Ballymena to take a goalkeeping coaching role at Norwich City and Roy Walker became United boss. Marty had left Coleraine and taken the job at Bangor. He called me and offered me a coaching job there. Marty was a great motivator, he gets players playing for him. He got every single drop he could out of the players. Bangor were underdogs and that suited us. I can remember winning at Glenavon when Marty Verner scored. Three months later, we were at Glenavon as the coaching staff - myself, Marty and Jeff Montgomery.
Q. What's your background at Linfield?
A. After I left Glenavon, I was out of work for a period. Davy Chisholm invited me to take the Linfield under-16 side. David Jeffrey was manager and I wanted to watch them training. Eddie Hill at Ballyclare Comrades asked to be his assistant. It was close to where I lived and, eventually, I became the manager which was a difficult job. Stuart King came in as assistant and Ross Oliver was coach. Things were going okay but there was a disagreement over a non-football issue and I resigned as manager. I moved onto Knockbreda but I had really sad news three years ago when I lost my wife to cancer. I had been married to Debbie, who was 51 when she passed away, for 32 years. I had to take a step away from football while my wife was going through the treatment. During that period, David had asked me would I come and be Linfield Swifts manager. It was Linfield and David Healy asking the question so of course I was excited and I took it as a big compliment. I had to say to David 'I can't do this now because my wife isn't well' and it sums up the sort of people David and Ross are as they said to me 'we want you and we will wait until you're ready to take the job. When you come back to football contact us and there's a job for you.' I've been lucky in my football life.
Q. In your time with the Swifts, how supportive have David, Ross and everyone at Linfield been?
A. My goodness, there can't be another manager in the Irish League who has as much influence in the youth structure at a club. I deal with other reserve team managers and they'll tell me 'your manager is at our matches more than ours'. David and Ross are at every match at Midgley Park and at many away games, whether it's Coleraine on a Friday night or Warrenpoint. I can't speak more highly of David's influence on the youth set-up and we have an exceptional group of players coming through.
Q. How privileged do you feel working with Linfield's young players?
A. It's just unreal. We are a close bunch of people and stick together. Linfield managers will get knocked down and you need to be a strong character. We keep our friends close and we are a family. David, Ross, Darren Murphy, Jonny Williamson, Ricky McCann and Gary Eccles... we are all in this together and I have my own staff who are a great help. There is a pathway here for players to improve. Look at Stephen Fallon, he won the Steel and Sons Cup with the Swifts but now he's progressed to be an outstanding player for Linfield and one of the best in the league. Fans were unsure of him but the manager believed in him and he's shown what can be achieved.
Q. Is there any advice you would give to a young player hoping to make it?
A. You have to work hard and be dedicated. It's not enough to just have ability. I've seen so many good players who lack the drive and ambition. Those who work hard and hold onto their dreams do well.
Q. Who do you admire most in sport and why?
A. I admire Pep Guardiola and Marcelo Bielsa. Marcelo is a bit of a guru and I'd love to be in charge of a team which is a proper, good footballing side. That's what we strive for. I'll always try and play the game the right way. I'll stick to my philosophy.
Q. You've been through a lot in your personal life, losing your wife and both parents. Have the young players at Linfield helped, in a small way, to put a smile back on your face?
A. If it hadn't been for football, I don't know how I would have coped. My son Glenn is one of the coaches with me and he's had to deal with losing his mum and now his dad. It's been a hard time but Glenn is a clever and intelligent young man. I'm proud he's my son. It's great to have him working for me and maybe some day when I'm too old to do it, he might step into my shoes. Dad was in a care home in Carrick when he contracted the Covid-19 virus and passed away, aged 81. He had a chest complaint and the oxygen wasn't able to help him. Dad was a massive influence on me. When we lived in Bangor, him and one of his friends near enough built a football pitch beside a primary school for us to play on, nets and all. Dad played at Distillery and he was manager of Michelin, a big football man and big supporter of mine. He taught me to be a man and show respect to everyone. I think I'm a decent person and that's down to him. I also lost my mum, Lillian, just before Debbie, within six months of each other. She had been on holiday with her friends and when she came back she called me and said 'are you going to see your daddy tomorrow?' She wanted me to pick her up after work but when I arrived at her house, she was still sitting in her holiday clothes after suffering a massive heart attack. I'm with my partner, Tracy, in Dundonald and her coming into my life has been a real life saver. I was in a bad away after losing Debbie. You don't think you are ever going to get out of the rut sometimes.
Q. How have you found the bereavement process?
A. I found it very difficult. Our daughter, Julie, gave up her job to look after her mum and she's now training to be a nurse. She worked in a design shop but now it's like a calling with her becoming a nurse. It was a very hard time but thankfully, I was at a concert and met Tracy. She has been unbelievably supportive in everything I do and I feel blessed to have met her. We have been together for 18 months. I never thought I would feel this way again and she's been a massive supporter. I've come through an awful lot and Tracy has represented light at the end of the tunnel. The coronavirus reminded us how much we took the game for granted and I've missed seeing my son and grandkids, who are in Banbridge.
Q. Do you know Jim Shaw, the former Irish FA president, well, from your time at Nortel?
A. Jim would know all about me, he's an absolute gentleman and big supporter of mine. I can't speak highly enough about him. I've seen him at Steel and Sons Cup finals, he's simply a really nice man.
Q. Who would be your top three dinner guests, dead or alive?
A. Glenn Hoddle must be there, Paul Weller and, for comedy value, Paul Gascoigne. Never a dull moment guaranteed.
Place of birth: Bangor
Date of birth: August 24, 1963
Playing career: UUJ, Crusaders Reserves, Distillery Reserves, Brantwood, Nortel
Current position: Linfield Swifts manager