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Ringsend Rover returns to see the Hoops

October 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Tonight Shamrock Rovers are welcoming many German football fans who have stayed on in Dublin after last night’s international game in Lansdowne Road. Also at last night’s Brazil 2014 qualifier, and present here tonight in Tallaght Stadium, is former Ireland international Dave Langan.

Langan published his autobiography last month and was signing copies of his book here at the stadium this evening as well as doing a Q&A session in the Glenmalure Suite ahead of kick off. He is currently on a two-week book signing tour but the one signing he was most looking forward to was this evening’s one. That is because Langan is a life long fan of Shamrock Rovers, a club he almost signed for late in his playing career.

Langan grew up in Ringsend where Rovers were founded. The club has a long rivalry with Shelbourne, who were also founded in the area. It meant the Ringsend rivalry was in the Langan household as, while Dave supported the Hoops, his father was actually a Shels fan!

“Rovers were my club from day one,” said Langan when he spoke to Hoops Scene recently about his support for Rovers, his playing career and his difficulties away from football – all of which he has chronicled in detail in his autobiography written with Trevor Keane and Alan Conway.

“My Da was Shels but me and my mate used to go up to Milltown every week when there was home matches and we followed them all over Ireland. We used to have a bit of messing between me Da and me -between Shels and Rovers!

“I used to walk up to Milltown from Ringsend, leaving about an hour and a half ahead of the match to get up there in plenty of time to see Johnny Fullam, Frank O’Neill and Mick Leech. My hero was Mick Leech. Some of the goals he got would take your breath away. I loved watching him play.”

Langan soon went from watching football to playing football at a high level moving to Derby County as a teenager. “Brian Clough signed me as an apprentice from Cherry Orchard,” said Langan. The main lesson Langan learned from the charismatic manager was, whatever you do, do not to lose the ball! “The worst thing you could do, was give the ball away, as you knew you’d be in for it!”

It was during his time at Derby that Langan made his debut for the Irish national team in a 4-2 win over Turkey. Having grown up so close to Lansdowne Road, it is no surprise to hear how proud he was to play for Ireland.

“Every game was great in Lansdowne in front of that crowd and the great atmosphere. I loved it when you walked out and then the national anthem was played. Your lungs would burst and the hairs would go up on the back of your neck. It was unreal.” His international caps are still located close to Lansdowne Road. “My mother has it all in the house (in Ringsend). My caps are well looked after by her.”

In 1980, the year he signed for Birmingham City for a then club record of £150,000, he played for Ireland against Argentina and their famous number 10. “Playing against Maradona was very special,” admitted Langan. “It was his balance that was unreal. I’d never seen anything like it. He would go over tackles that would kill others and he’d just skip away from them. I clattered him a few times and he just looked at me as if to stay ‘Is that the best you got!?!’

The following year, in the famous 3-2 home win over France, Langan suffered an injury that has plagued him ever since. That knee injury would also cost him the chance of playing for Shamrock Rovers.
“Noel King, who was managing Rovers at the time, asked me did I fancy coming over to play a few games. He said he’d get me a job but my injury was too severe and I couldn’t go. Rovers have been my club since I was a kid. I was distraught I couldn’t do it.”

That missed opportunity came at the end of Langan’s career following a successful spell with Oxford United. ““My favourite time in club football was with Oxford. I scored a goal against Shrewsbury that brought us up to the division which is now the English Premier League and we also won the Milk Cup.”

That 1986 Milk Cup or League Cup Final was at a time when the League Cup had a much higher status than now, possibly due to the fact that English football clubs were banned from Europe following the Heysel Stadium disaster. It meant Oxford missed out on Europe the same year following that Cup final win over QPR. Winning that game in Wembley was a real career highlight for Langan.

“I was a young guy from Ringsend used to playing on the Dodder pitches and here I was playing at Wembley. It was hard to sink in. When you are a young boy, you see the cup finals, the players walking up the steps and you wonder what that is like. You want to do that yourself and then when it happens to you, you are so proud. I can still remember walking up those steps, being handed the medal and the roar of the crowd when our captain lifted the cup. It just stays with you forever.”

The highs of his time with Oxford United are counterbalanced with lows for Langan in later life. He had difficulties with depression, alcohol and homeless after the end of his playing career; a situation he tells with great honesty in his autobiography. However, with the help of friends and family, his life is in a much better place now.

This year he had his tenth operation on his right knee and he is facing surgery on his left knee next year. “I had a new right knee put in back in April. I’m going in to get a new knee on my left soon. The right knee is still extremely stiff but as time goes on that will ease. I don’t have the severe pain in the right knee that I had before the operation. It is an awful lot better now. The knees were both knackered. The right one kept collapsing on me so that’s the one that was operated on first.”

Tonight he gets a chance to see Rovers play in Tallaght Stadium for the very first time but he is very familiar with all the goings on at Rovers. “I follow the matches. I try and get text updates every Friday night but sometimes that is difficult if I am at work. I can’t wait for the matches to be on. It is like being a kid, I still get excited by the games!”

That level of enthusiasm for Rovers was clear in talking to Langan ahead of tonight’s game. It means a lot for him to be here in Tallaght watching the Hoops in action. “This will be my first ever visit to the stadium which looks fantastic. I can’t wait, I’m wishing the days away!”

Published in Hoops Scene, Issue 19/2012, Shamrock Rovers v Derry City

Ringsend lad Langan ‘Running through Walls’

September 18, 2012 Leave a comment

http://extratime.ie/newsdesk/articles/8936/ringsend-lad-langan-running-through-walls/

Growing up in Ringsend, Dave Langan dreamed of playing international football for his country in Lansdowne Road, the stadium that was just a fullback’s long throw away from his home. He was able to live out that dream of playing for Ireland as well as to fulfil the ambition of many boys to walk up those famous Wembley steps to collect a winner’s medal at a cup final.

Those footballing highs were counterbalanced with lows in both his career and away from football where he battled with injury, marriage difficulties and, at one stage, homelessness. This month Langan published his autobiography ‘Running through Walls’ which chronicles his battles on the pitch as well as the battles he faced, and continues to face, off the pitch.

Langan played 26 times for his country over an 12 year period so when Extratime.ie spoke with the former Ireland right back this week, we asked what was his career highlight from his time in an Ireland shirt?

“My debut was something I will never forget. I played against Turkey and we won 4-2. Every game was great though especially in Lansdowne in front of that crowd and the great atmosphere. I loved it when you walked out and then the national anthem was played. Your lungs would burst and the hairs would go up on the back of your neck. It was unreal.”

Another career highlight for Langan was playing against Argentina in Lansdowne Road in 1980 where he had to mark a certain Diego Armando Maradona.

“Playing against Maradona was very special,” admitted Langan. “It was his balance that was unreal. I’d never seen anything like it. He would go over tackles that would kill others and he’d just skip away from them. I clattered him a few times and he just looked at me as if to stay ‘Is that the best you got!?!’”

Langan was part of the Ireland team for the famous win over France in 1981. It was a win that was to come at a price for the former Cherry Orchard player who picked up a knee injury that would cause him untold trouble in the rest of his football career and beyond.

“The French game when we won 3-2 was one of hell a match. I got a bad tackle that day when a French player came in on me very late. My knee has given me severe problems from then on. I’ve had to have 10 operations on that knee.”

That game was part of the qualification for the 1982 World Cup and Langan has strong views on Ireland’s failure to qualify for that tournament.

“The most disappointing time with Ireland was when we missed out on qualifying on goal difference when Eoin Hand was in charge. We were cheated over in Belgium. The player who dived in the last couple of minutes should have got an Oscar for it. They scored from that free kick to beat us 1-0. Kevin Moran had a goal disallowed in France. The gods were against us that year. We didn’t have one bit of luck. It was a major disappointment and we would have loved to have played in that tournament.”

When Ireland did subsequently qualify for a tournament in 1988, Langan missed out when manager Jack Charlton controversially omitted him from the squad. It had been another famous English manager, Brian Clough, who gave Langan his start in the professional game. Clough had a unique way of welcoming Langan into the ranks.

“The first thing he said to me was not ‘welcome to Derby’ but ‘can you use a brush? Well, go down and brush my office.’ From then on he kept ringing and sending for me. He’d ring the boot room and say ‘send me down the Irishman.’ He’d never call me by my first name, just Irishman. I’d go down, and he’d say ‘go get me a whiskey’ or ‘go and wash my car’. He was a one off and he wouldn’t get away with that now! He is an all time great for what he did in his career. He was a hell of character.

“He hated you giving the ball away. In the Derby dressing room, there was a sign he put up that said ‘The biggest crime in football is to give the ball to the opposition’. If you gave the ball away, he’d go absolutely ballistic! It was a good way of teaching you to keep the ball and it was a good way to bring you from an apprentice to a professional.”

After Derby, Langan moved to Birmingham City before joining Oxford United where he had great success.

“My favourite time in club football was with Oxford. I scored a goal against Shrewsbury that brought us up to the division which is now the Premier League in England and we also won the Milk Cup.”

The 1986 League Cup Final, or Milk Cup Final as it was known then, played at Wembley saw Oxford beat QPR.

“It was my first time in Wembley and I couldn’t believe it. I remember going up Wembley Way with Ray Houghton sitting beside me in the coach. He goes ‘there is your three sisters’ as he recognized them having been over for an Irish dinner in my house before. When I looked, the three of them were there waving at me!

“I was a young guy from Ringsend used to playing on the Dodder pitches and here I was playing at Wembley. It was hard to sink in. When you are a young boy, you see the cup finals, the players walking up the steps and you wonder what that is like. You want to do that yourself and then when it happens to you, you are so proud. I can still remember walking up those steps, being handed the medal and the roar of the crowd when our captain lifted the cup. It just stays with you forever.”

In Langan’s book, co-written with Trevor Keane and Alan Conway, he tells the story of these footballing career highlights but also of the dark days that followed him hanging up his boots in 1989. He admitted that documenting his troubles has at times “been very difficult. There have been many lows in my life. Moments like when I turned to drink, all the operations I needed and how depressed I got. It all had to come out but it was great to get it off my chest as you are better off getting it out in the open. We’ve worked really hard, it has nearly taken us nearly 18 months to write. It has been tough going at times. Sometimes you want to jack it in but we hope it goes well.”

At one point after he finished playing, Langan even found himself homeless but it was through the help of friends and family that he was able to get back on his feet.

“I ended up sleeping in the town hall basement cupboard as I’d nowhere to go. Cherry Orchard did a charity night for me and that helped me a great deal to get back on my feet. The FAI did a dinner for me too.”

Peterborough, the town where he finished his playing career, is Langan’s home now and he works there in the local authority.

“I look after the Mayor, help him get ready and do the teas and coffees for his guests,” said the 55 year-old. It is a nice little job. There is no lifting!”

This is important as Langan had his right knee fully replaced in April this year and will have his left knee operated on early next year. The launch of his book has surprised some of those in the city hall.

“I was on Radio Cambridge and they did a big spread in the Peterborough Telegraph so people are coming up to me saying ‘I didn’t realise who you were’. I suppose I kept things quiet but it is good now that the book is coming out.”

Next month, Langan will be in Ireland for a book tour. He hopes to get to Aviva Stadium to watch Ireland take on Germany and he is particularly looking forward to a book signing in Tallaght Stadium ahead of the Shamrock Rovers v Derry City game on October 13th. Growing up in Ringsend where Rovers were founded, Langan is a big Shamrock Rovers supporter. As a child he used to travel to see the Hoops when they played in Milltown and he still keeps a close eye on goings on at Rovers.

“I am coming over for 12 days for the book launch. There will be loads of book signings in Easons and I’m going to travel around Ireland for that. I’m going to be busy but the one I’m really looking forward to is the one in Tallaght. I also hope to do a book signing near Lansdowne the day before that and am hoping to get to the Ireland v Germany game.”

Published by DB Publishing, ‘Running through Walls’ Dave Langan’s Autobiography is released in September.

Article published on extratime.ie on Monday, 8 September, 2012.