Dave Langan has a new book out called Running Through Walls. I spoke to Dave a couple of months ago, and – after thinking I had lost the recording – found it! The timing seems about right though, as he has a book signing at Blues prior to the Ipswich game, more details at the end of the interview.
Thank you for your time Dave.
How did you get “discovered” as a footballer?
I played for a youth team in Dublin called Cherry Orchard. We were the only team to go a season undefeated. The scout from Derby, John Wilkes, sent me over for a trial and Cloughy was manager at the time. At the end of the 2 weeks, they offered me an apprenticeship. I signed in the June and went back for pre-season in the July.
What was it like playing for Cloughy as a youngster?
The first words he said to me, weren’t welcome to Derby or hello young man or anything like that, it was “can you use a brush!?” Then he told me to get down to his office to sweep it! I got the brush and swept his office. The thing was, he then kept picking on me to do jobs. I’d have to wash his car, clean his boots, take his kids to their seats in the ground half an hour before kick off. I used to have to take them by their hand and walk them around to the stand. He’d stand on the pitch and watch me all the way round to make sure they were in their seats! It just seemed to be me he picked on to do all his jobs!
Was it like that the whole time you were there?
It was like that the whole time I was there. When I played games, I got into the reserve team, he’d come in at half time and have a right go at people. He used to call me the Irishman. There are a few things in the book about what went on. For some reason he just kept asking me to do jobs right up to when I left.
What was your impression of him as a youngster (despite your treatment!)?
I was terrified of him to start with. I could tell that the senior players were in awe of him. They had tremendous respect for him. Actually some were scared of him! However it was mainly respect. He was a guy you could never work out. Some mornings he’d walk past you and say good morning young man. Next time if you didn’t say good morning first, he’d have you!
His man management was unbelievable. Some players would be having a nightmare game and he’d be going ballistic on the touchline to certain players. I watched and heard this happening, as I was sat in a little pen next to the line with all of the other apprentices. Anyway at half time, we’d go in to make the tea, and he’d be praising them up no end. I realise now, it was to give them a lift. I remember Kevin Hector scored a hatrick once, and he went ballistic at him because he missed another chance! He was a one off, there will be no one like him again!
Did you ever make it in the full side at Derby under Cloughy?
No not with him. He left and then Dave Mackay took over. He put me in the squad a couple of times. I didn’t make my debut until Colin Murphy took over. I made my debut against Leeds. he told me before the game I was in the squad because of injuries, but then told me on the morning I was playing. We lost 1-0 though, with Joe Jordan scoring in the 87th minute. It was a mud heap of a pitch. However it went well for me, because I stayed in the team then for 96
games until I got sent off.
What goes through a youngster’s mind knowing you were making your debut against Leeds who were a huge side then? How do you prepare for it?
Well after watching a side like that, the first thing that goes through your mind is I’m not good enough to play against the likes of them. Then he told me I’d be marking Eddy Gray and I though Oh no! I remember before the game, he put the team sheet down and he said, oh Eddy Gray isn’t playing as he’s injured. I was relieved. Of course I didn’t have anyone to mark as Lorimer played on the right. So I had free reign which I liked. I was terrified though! McFarland and Todd were really good to me. From the kick off they passed the ball straight to me to calm me down. I didn’t think I was good enough, I was a bit of a nervous wreck to be honest!
What was your highlight at Derby?
Winning the player of the season in a side with players like Mcfarland, Hector, Todd and Charlie George. That was a real achievement for me because there were some great players in that team.
Did you play wing back at Derby?
Yeah that’s how McFarland wanted me to play, getting forward quickly when we had the ball. I played all my career that way to be honest. I got a lot of rollicking from managers because your first job is to defend. I was a player that could go all day, which meant I could play that attacking role from the back.
What was the lead up to going to Blues?
I had a call from Colin Addison who was the Derby manager at the time he told me to go to the ground as he needed to speak to me, this was in the summer. I went to the ground and he said we’ve had an offer from a side do you want to speak to them? He told me it was the Blues and that Jim Smith wanted me. I said yes I did. Addison told me not to ask “telephone numbers” because he didn’t want me to spoil the deal! Anyway I met Jim at a hotel in Burton on Trent. The
deal was done in about 10 minutes!
Then I signed and went there. To be honest I hadn’t realised what good players they had at the time and what a big club it
was. The likes of Curbishley, Dillon, Dennis and so on. I was 23 when I joined Blues.
I look back on that side as one of my favourite collections of players. The thing that struck me about Smithy, was he appeared really down to earth. He seemed like a fan who could manage.
You’re right, although we used to call him Mr Angry! He had unbelievable passion for football. He hated getting beat which was a brilliant thing to have. he used to really lose His temper. He would kick things and go mad. He would slaughter you if you played badly, but after the game would ask what you wanted to drink. He’d come and chat like one of the lads and just draw a line under it. He would never hold it against you. The only time he wouldn’t drop it, if he
saw players not giving 100% which is fair enough.
There was a mixture of youngsters and experience with the likes of Todd and Gemmill too.
Yeah well they were still living in Derby, so we used to share a car to Brum.
You must have learnt a lot from Todd at Derby and Blues?
Yeah he was very quick. His positional play was excellent. He would read the play so well. That gave me confidence.
One game under the Smithy era that sticks in my memory, is the 4-3 win v Forest.
Oh yeah I remember that. We were behind and Smithy went mad at half time and told us to turn it around.They had the likes of Robertson in the side, they were a good side.
What was it like off the pitch at Blues. Was there a “lads” culture?
We had a great bunch of lads. we used to go out after the game and have a few beers. We didn’t do anything bad and There wasn’t any player control then either. It was only after Saunders took over that the “famous 5” got into trouble every week!
There was one incident, the full story is in the book, of Mark Dennis hitting someone in the bar! (Kev – If you had told me to name one player who might have done that….)
It got to a point where the Sunday papers were pre-printing that Mark Dennis had been sent off!! What was your record of sending offs?
I was sent off 3 times, twice against Micky Thomas! One of those was the game that broke my 96 match run for Derby. The other was at Blues when we played Stoke in a night time game.
Well we’d blame it on him obviously! What would you say your highlight at Blues was?
Well the Blues fans were just something else. I remember being 4-0 down v Stoke after 20 minutes and still they sung. I won player of the year there too. I’ve never come across so loyal and passionate fans.
You scored 3 goals for us Dave, any memories of those?
I wasn’t the best goal scorer I mostly made them. I remember a 25 yard left foot shot into the top corner v West Ham, a penalty v Luton although we lost. I can’t remember the other one.
Must be special to score when you’re not a goal scorer normally.
Yeah it gives you a different feeling. Usually you’re stopping them at the other end. When you score, your heart goes a 100 miles an hour. You’re so elated, it gives you goosebumps.
I enjoyed watching the side with you and Mark overlapping up each wing.
Yeah it was just a shame about his temperament. If he had a different one he could have played for England easily.
It wasn’t just us though was it, he got sent off every club he was at.
Yeah, but off the pitch he was such a nice lad. When he went over the touchline he just changed. His nickname was Damien! If we were out he’d want to take the world on. We’d be trying to calm him down but he’d be saying no I’m having him!!
I remember he got sent off against Alan Ball. We were winning 4-0 against Southampton and Alan Ball tried to chip it and hit a divot and the ball went behind the goal. Mark said to him unlucky son. Ball said what did you say? mark repeated it and Ball said I’ll tell you what, I’ll be in this game a lot longer than you. Dennis said, well you won’t be in THIS game much longer and smacked him one and put him down. Of course Mark got sent off. I mean we were 4-0 up, you just don’t do that sort of thing!
What about Frank Worthington?
Oh Frank, he never ran any where. He was some player though. He would line up the balls at about 25 yards and say get in goal for me. He would just hit them and they just fired them into the top corners. He never missed! He was unbelievable. He loved music, especially Elvis. He has a great voice actually.
So you left Blues, what happened?
I was starting to get injuries, particularly with my knee. I left on a free transfer to Oxford. Saunders told me I wouldn’t make it, I was a million miles from being a player.
I didn’t think much of our play under Saunders.
No, I was injured a lot of the time and had to watch. It was like watching paint dry. I think the ball was in the air most of the time. I hated it. It was totally different to Smithy’s time when the ball was played on the ground. I actually didn’t go to some games I just stayed at home. I re-joined Jim Smith at Oxford and he signed me after a 2 weeks trial.
I remember Jim left under a bit of a cloud. Jasper resigned from the board over it. What are your memories?
The day before he was sacked, we played West Ham and played really well. We drew 2-2 but only because of a late equaliser from West Ham. I rang him and said I was sorry he’d gone – I did get on really well with him. He said he appreciated the call but didn’t feel like speaking at the moment but I will keep you in mind wherever I go. I was gutted he’d left, but there were some players who were pleased he’d gone, those who weren’t in the team. Then Saunders came and that was the start of the nightmare.
At Oxford, did the injuries persist?
Yeah I was still getting a lot of jip but I did get through games with injections. It went well for me because I scored the goal which gave them promotion against Shrewsbury and scored in the league cup. I won player of the year again.
You played for your country Dave, that must have been a proud time
I played 26 times. My first game was in 1978 at Lansdowne Road, my Mom’s house was a stone’s throw from the ground. You walk out to the noise, I was shaking like a leaf. You have the green shirt on and they played the national anthem it’s amazing. You are so proud, but get in such a state! I gave everything in those games. I would have played more if I hadn’t had the injuries.
So what happened after Oxford?
I was let go and went to Bournemouth when Rednapp was there. It didn’t really work out because of injuries. My back and knees were giving me grief. So I then went to Peterborough and I quit playing while I was there. I then had to find a job. The PFA didn’t really help. So the 1st job I got was a car park attendant. I had to do it, I didn’t have enough money. Then was a delivery driver then ended up in security in the town hall. Now I look after the Mayor and the guests.
Do you go to football?
No only watch it on TV. I watched the Carling Cup final, what an unbelievable finish. I was gutted we couldn’t do it v Blackpool though. The legs seem to have gone. It had been a really long season for most of the players.
What about your book?
It’s called Running Through Walls. It’s a self portrait. It starts up to date with my latest operation, but looks at my playing career. There are plenty of stories of each club. There are also a number of interviews too. Smithy does one as does Mick Harford. I’d like to thank Trevor Keane and Alan Conway the co-writers. I’d also like to thank Con Meehan for his hard work.
You can follow Dave on twitter @DaveyLangan
Dave thank you so much for your time, I wish you every success with your book.
Dave will be in the club shop from 11.00am at the Ipswich game and then at the George from 12.00 where he will be signing copies of his book. He will also be at the George after the game.