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    Wednesday, May 09, 2012 5:48:24 PM

    No Regrets – Darren Young Interview – Craig Brown (The Away end)

    They say a week is a long time in football. A year is even longer. This time last year Alloa were facing relegation from the Irn Bru Second Division after being among the promotion favourites when the league kicked off. Manager Allan Maitland was sacked along with his coaching staff and the team were left with only one player.

    This summer however, Alloa fans will manage to put their feet up and relax, as the club are going home, back to the Second Division at the first time of asking. This time the club is in better shape with a good mix of young and experienced players. None are more experienced than captain Darren Young, who has been an unsung hero for the club during the 2011/12 campaign.

    Young is often found as the steady, calming influence in the middle of the park; breaking up play and allowing players like Kevin Cawley, Robbie Winters, Stevie May or the McCord brothers - Ross and Ryan - to get onto the ball. Young has a vast array of experience after successful spells at Aberdeen and Dunfermline where the Centre Midfielder played European football, pushed for top six SPL honours, played in four cup finals and became the youngest Aberdeen captain in living memory.

    As the Third Division season draws to a climax Alloa sit at the top of the league on 76 points, an impressive 13 points above nearest challengers Queens Park. However things have not been that easy for Paul Hartley’s side.

    Young said: “I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how good the standard of football has been this season. We have dropped points against East Stirlingshire who are at the bottom and been pushed by teams placed throughout the division so I wouldn’t say it’s been too comfortable. We've had to work hard to get to where we are now and I think, as the season has gone on, that we have become stronger.

    "A lot of teams try and get the ball down and play from the back, the most notable being Queens Park and Stranraer. I honestly don’t think there is much of a difference from the bottom half of the first division to the top of the third.”

    Alloa recently announced that Manager Paul Hartley and Assistant Manager Paddy Connelly have signed contract extensions for a further two seasons, something which delighted both players and fans alike. Darren Young has played under a lot of managers who have had success over the years including Jimmy Calderwood and Jim Leishman - who he starred in cup finals under - and thinks that Hartley has a massive future in the dugout.

    “I think the gaffer has all the credentials to go on and become a top manger," he said. "He’s been a massive influence on me and the team and is probably one of the main reasons that a lot of the players, myself included, joined the club. He never complicates things and is easy to talk to but if you’re not pulling your weight then he won’t be slow in telling you either.”

    This week Annan Athletic started work on Galabank, becoming the sixth senior stadium in recent years to hold a synthetic surface, although Dunfermline Athletic and Hamilton Accies have now reverted back to grass due to SPL regulations. The debate about clubs going down this route continues, one of the arguments being that the players hate playing on them.

    Young has seen the progress from the first of the new generation of astro-turf at Dunfermline’s East End Park and the latest offering at Recreation Park Alloa, so is in a better place than most to comment.

    “At Dunfermline the pitch was very poor compared to Alloa’s. I wasn’t a fan of them at first but with the way technology has advanced over the years they have become a million times better and you get used to playing on it. Whether we see them in the SPL again, time will tell. I wouldn’t mind it if I’m honest but I probably won’t be back playing in the SPL again!”

    Looking back on his career Young has had many ups and downs with injuries playing a big part in his own development. It was under Roy Aitken and against Hearts that a 17 year old Young made his début for the Dons, playing with Billy Dodds, Scott Booth, Dean Windass and Duncan Shearer to name but a few. Those players also had a big influence in helping Young develop.

    "Most of the first team players were great to talk to and would always be there for you if you needed any help," said Young. "I used to share a room with big Duncan Shearer when I first broke into the team so I could always ask him for advice since he had been there and done it.”

    It was being appointed captain, playing first team football with his brother and taking the club to European Football that will be his biggest memories from his eight years in the Granite City.

    He continued: “Being made captain at such a young age and the fact that my brother Derek played in the same team as me was fantastic. We had both played in the youth team, reserves and then the first team together so we managed to share a lot of our experiences.

    "Playing in the European nights at Pittodrie were amazing and being captain made it all the sweeter.

    "They were great days and I probably didn’t appreciate them at the time. I loved my time up in Aberdeen and made a lot of great friends from my time there”.

    Young has no regrets leaving only two years short of his testimonial season however: “I can’t say I regret leaving, no. There were a few reasons for going, the team weren’t playing great at the time and the club had to go through massive wage cuts. On a personal note - which was one of the biggest reasons for leaving - my dad wasn’t very well and I wanted to move back to the central belt to be closer to him.

    "I got my move to Dunfermline where I played in four cup finals in five years when Aberdeen hovered around mid table and never got to any finals, plus I got to spend more time with my Dad so it worked out well for me.


    Lining up in a cup final alongside his brother Derek (left) was special to Darren.


    “I loved my time at the club and loved the two Jimmy’s. I can’t speak highly enough of them both. Training was always hard work but very enjoyable, we were a team playing with smiles on our faces.

    "Jimmy Nicholl was always the light hearted one with his stories and JC dealt with the more serious side of things so they both worked well together.”

    During his time at The Pars Darren met Celtic in both the Scottish and League Cup finals, and St.Johnstone in the Challenge Cup. However it will be the runners up medals in the national competitions that Young will hold dear.

    He said: “It’s a shame we never managed to meet someone else apart from Celtic in the cup finals. My first season at the club was one of my happiest memories in football as we finished fourth in the SPL which was Dunfermline’s highest ever finish, and we reached the Scottish Cup final and qualified for Europe.

    "It made me proud because we achieved all this with my brother once again playing alongside me.”

    In the 2007 League Cup final a Stephen Kenny led Dunfermline side faced Celtic at Hampden. The Pars lost out again in a 1-0 score line with Darren voted the sponsors man of the match.

    “I was happy on a personal note, it was good to be noticed for the hard work you put in, but I would happily have swapped it for a winners medal”.

    Unfortunately for Young he never managed to pick up a full cap for Scotland even though he played seven times for the Under 21’s and was selected to travel with Craig Brown’s Scotland squad to the 1998 World Cup Finals in France, as one of Brown’s famous “hamper boys”.

    “Going to the World Cup was one of the best experiences of my life. I got to do every single thing the team did. We trained everyday and travelled on the bus with them to the games.

    "It was a bit surreal at the opening game of the tournament. We were out checking the pitch when on our way back into the changing rooms Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo and Cafu to name but a few walked past nodding and saying hi.”

    This was the last time Scotland qualified for a major tournament but Young feels those days may return soon: “I think we’re getting there again," he said. "We’ve now got a lot more players playing in the Premiership gaining more experience playing in a big league which can only help in the long term”.

    Darren Young is in no rush to hang his boots up just yet. However, at 32 years old he knows that he will have to look towards the end of his career sooner rather than later.

    "From a personal point of view I’d like to continue playing for the next few years but also get more into the coaching side of things. I've got a few coaching badges already and passed my "B" license in November. I’m also the Head of the Community Coaching for The Wasps which has been a fantastic way to get my feet in the door and get me started.

    "The gaffer also let me take the reserve team in a game the other week which was a great experience so I’m learning to develop myself away from actually playing the game all the time.”

    There is no doubt that Alloa are a club moving forward. With the Wasps running various programmes putting the club at the heart of the community, possessing a chairman who has big ideas in how to continue this progression and currently having one of the countries most exciting young managers, supporters of the club will be hoping that the glory days for the club are just starting and there will be more to celebrate over the coming years.

    Darren Young receives Alloa 1878 Supporters Club "Player of the year" trophy for Season 2011/12.

     



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