Wednesday 20 February 2019

Paradise role could be just the start for dreamer Duff

Damien Duff at Celtic’s training ground in Lennoxtown yesterday. Photo: Alan Harvey/Sportsfile
Damien Duff at Celtic’s training ground in Lennoxtown yesterday. Photo: Alan Harvey/Sportsfile

John Fallon

For someone considered for a long time as the baby of the Irish team, Damien Duff doesn't mind being in the same position again at Celtic - but his second schooling may drift him into senior management.

The Dubliner is 10 days into his first full-time role, contrasting the demands against the era of abandon in his playing days, and says it could lead to bigger opportunities in the future.

Of course, he can't say for sure yet whether the transition, three years after completing a decorated 20 years of playing, will generate the same level of self-fulfilment.

So far, it's delivering in spades and there's no indication of a honeymoon feel wearing off judging by comments at his unveiling yesterday.

"It's the first time in my life I've worked proper hours, in at 8am and home for 5 or 6pm," said the 39-year-old about his new role as assistant boss of the club's reserve team.

"You don't see that side of things when you're a professional footballer. But it's been brilliant.

"I've brought my wife over here and taken my kids out of school to come here.

"They were happy to come but there's no other place in the world, or any other club, that I would have left Ireland for, at the minute anyway, in my coaching career.

"Celtic were my team growing up, I had all the kits and dreamed of playing for them.

"The club asked me to come over and interview, which was a very tough process. The easy bit was accepting the offer."

Duff will get to work with the supporting cast for Brendan Rodgers' first team, including two compatriots in Tommy Caffrey and Barry Coffey.

Where it takes him remains to be seen but having chosen to start at the bottom by coaching consecutive U-15 squads at Shamrock Rovers, his coaching career is enjoying a steady upward curve.

The guidance of an old acquaintance will help too.

"I know Brendan going back to my Chelsea days 15 years ago when he was working in the academy," explained Duff about the Northern Irishman.

"We used to talk about Celtic quite a lot then and we've ended up here. That's not why I got the job.

"The gaffer has been great. He's top-class and he's one of the best managers in the world.

Lucky

"That's a fact, and I think the club is lucky to have him. It all stems from him, he's the figurehead.

"I'm only a baby in coaching terms, not claiming to know everything. I'm here to learn and what an amazing environment to do it.

"I just want to be a top coach, and see where that takes me, whether that's management or wherever.

"I was nervous on my first day, I'm still a bit nervous now, and I don't really think that will change. Nerves are good."

Twenty years on from his first season as a senior international in an oversized shirt, the admirable traits remain.

There's nothing to prevent the ordinary man who achieved extraordinary things in that jersey doing likewise in a tracksuit.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport