The Bhoy in the Hoops

Article published in Hoops Scene Celtic XI\Wexford Youths February 2010

Watching Gary Twigg playing for Shamrock Rovers last season, nobody could be in any doubt about the high level of enjoyment he took from playing for Rovers.  His 24 league goals last season were celebrated with vigour on the pitch by the player and with fervour in the stands from the supporters.  Twigg rapidly became a fans favourite with a rendition of the Scottish national anthem in honour of our “Twigg of Scotland” being sung from the stands.  Speaking to him, the pleasure he took last season from his performances and the vocal support he received from the stands, along with his disappointment on the club not gaining a league title is obvious.  His passion for his other team in green and white hoops also shines through.  This week’s game against a Celtic XI allows Gary Twigg take on the club from his home town and the club he has supported since he was a small boy.

“Growing up it was the Hoops of Celtic for me but now I’m in the Hoops of Shamrock Rovers,” he said and confirmed he never lost that passion for Celtic.  When playing three seasons with Airdrie he always made the effort to go support his club having a Celtic season ticket during that time.  “I would try to get to every game I could get to.  If I played Saturday and Celtic played on a Sunday I’d go and watch them home or away, wherever they were playing.  But I never played against Celtic so it will be good.  I don’t know what team they are bringing over but it will still be Celtic we are playing against.  They play Rangers on Sunday, so they will probably rest whoever they want for that one to be ready.  Celtic are a big attraction so the stadium should be near capacity.  That’s no surprise as for the Rovers fans, it doesn’t matter who we are playing, they’ll be there.”

The extensive coverage of British football on television in Ireland allows Twigg to keep up to speed with all things Celtic but he also gets to see the Bhoys play live during the season.  “If Celtic are on TV, I always watch them and if I get a free weekend and I’m back in Glasgow, I will always go to see them.”

But Twigg doesn’t confine himself to following teams in green and white hoops, he is a football fan and likes to go a live game when the opportunity arises.  “I go and watch Cliftonville when I’m free and they are about the area.  They are the team I’m interested in the North.  I was at the game against Linfield with Barry Johnson.  It was good game and Clintonville managed a win.”  So the Rovers star striker is a Celtic and Cliftonville fan who enjoys to see Linfield get beaten.  That will tick many of the boxes for lots of Rovers fans!  He does also pop along to watch Newry City as he explained, “I live near Newry and I go and watch them if I’m not doing anything on a Saturday or I’ve no training on a Tuesday night.”

In an incredible first season with Rovers, he got the first ever goal in Tallaght Stadium, got two late late derby goals against eventual league winners Bohs, picked up the player of month award in September, top goalscorer for Rovers and in the league, Player of the Year at Rovers and the Players Player of the Year.  Could he have envisaged such an amazing season?

“It happened so fast with me moving over just ahead of the transfer deadline. Things went so well so quickly when I didn’t expect to come into a new team and do so well early on.  Yeah, so for me personally it was a really good season but disappointing the way it ended up with the league”.  And what of being given his Shamrock Rovers Player of the Year award to the tune of “Twigg of Scotland” being played on the bagpipes?  “Totally unexpected,” he laughs, “what a good gesture, I thoroughly enjoyed it!  It was special to win that award.”

For Twigg it was a very long season.  Having played 23 games with Brechin City, scoring 12 goals, he then moved from the winter Scottish football season straight into the Irish summer season.  He started a further 32 league games.  So what was his condition at the end of his marathon season?  “I obviously did feel tired and fatigued.  I needed the end of the season.  I felt my own form had started to dip as I was getting tired but I tried to do my best in the title run in, win each game and keep myself sharp.”

And while Twigg enjoyed his time off over Winter, getting away to Tenerife and back to Glasgow to see family, friends and some football, he was still looking forward to getting back playing football again.  “It was getting boring, yes the rest is good, but there was a bit of mopping about house with nothing to do.”  However, it wasn’t several weeks off with nothing to do as Rovers gave each player work to do over the off season.  “We had programmes during the break to keep ourselves ticking over.  If you rest for two months it is very hard when you go back.”  Indeed Twigg had high praise for the management and coaching team of Michael O’Neill and Trevor Crolly.  “We’ve got a manager and a very very good coach in Trevor Crolly who put on unbelievable sessions for us.  Every session you have to be ready for work, that’s what you want.  The gaffer and Trevor expect high standards.  With the squad we’ve got this season, the boys that have come in also expect high standards so the level keeps on increasing and increasing.  That’s what we need to do as a team to get up to the next level.”

Shamrock Rovers enjoyed two weekend training camps in Carton House during preseason where Twigg says they were very well taken care of.  “It was a great break away, getting looked after with top notch facilities in a beautiful setting and surroundings for training.”  But after last week’s trip back to his native Scotland to play Hibs and Hearts, it is clear Twigg is relishing the first league game on the season.  “I can’t wait for the first game.  Preseason hurts you but you need to be ready for the start of the season.  We are gearing up to be ready for the weekend of March 5th.”  And what of playing on a Friday night as Rovers home games will predominantly be this season?  “I prefer Friday as last year we were always playing catch up.  Bohs playing on Friday and then you have to wait for our game Saturday.  From the club’s point of view, they are trying to see when we get bigger crowds.”  For Rovers, for the first time since 2003, they will get to play in European competition and this is something Twigg is also looking forward to.  “I can’t wait. I’ve never played in Europe before so it is a great opportunity.  Hopefully the draw is kind and we can progress.  We saw St. Pats do that last year and there is no reason why Rovers can’t do it this year.”

Friendlies against Celtic and trips to Europe can be a nice distraction but it is that elusive league title that is the main priority.  “In the League, Bohs will be there along with a few other teams that will be really good this year.  We will be up the top fighting and hopefully at the end of the season things will have worked out for us.  The end of last season was disappointing and that will be in the back of a few of the boy’s minds.  When it comes to certain situations this year we can use that and hopefully we can kick on and win that league title that everybody wants.”

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