DERRY CITY captain, Kevin Deery is desperate to make up for lost time after the worst injury-hit season of his career and believes that 2011 will be the year he can once again become an ever-present at the Brandywell club.
It was typical of the midfielder’s fortune with injuries that he suffered a recurrence of his troublesome calf injury in pre-season which has ruled him out of the opening Premier Division matches against Sligo Rovers, UCD and possibly Shamrock Rovers.
During last year’s campaign in the First Division he was restricted to just 16 appearances for the ‘Candy Stripes’ in what he describes as his most disappointing season to date, but he will always feel part of what the club achieved in such a short period of time.
After previous lengthy absences, the 26 year-old play-maker feared the sound of a closing door on his career at senior level, however, he has come back mentally stronger and insists his best performances are yet to come.
The midfielder’s sober, honest assessments should not be taken as signs of an innate pessimism because he is clearly determined to project positivity as he prepares himself for the start of the new season.
His unbridled enthusiasm for the game is without question and he is working tirelessly behind the scenes as his rehabilitation continues, targetting a quick-fire return to action within the next fortnight.
“I’m looking forward to the start of the season,” he enthused. “You don’t realise how much you miss it when it’s not there. I think it’s going to be excellent for the supporters this year now we’re back in the Premier Division.
“I’m delighted for Derry as a city and as a club. From a personal point of view I would like to contribute a bit more this year because I was disappointed with last year.
“The fact that I picked up niggling injuries and it was probably the least amount of games I’ve played in one season for Derry.
“I was delighted for the team. I did feel part of that success because I only lost one game I played in so I would like to think that I helped in some way. We went on a run of 12 or 13 games were we were unbeaten. I always remain positive.”
Deery believes he is much more mentality equipped for life back in the top flight of League of Ireland football and remains optimistic despite his latest minor set-back with injury.
“I’ve changed for the better since we were last in the Premier Division. I’d like to think I’ve matured. Obviously I’ve had my hard times with injury. Every time you pick up an injury you start questioning yourself but I feel I’m mentally tougher than when I was back when I was 23 or 24.
“My calf’s been a bit problematic. I don’t feel like I’m injury prone because it’s always a similar injury. It’s not like I injure my groin, hamstring or whatever it’s just the one injury that keeps recurring.
“I try and do everything I can to keep fit and that’s what frustrates me the most. It’s a niggling injury. I’m back running and if I get through a couple of weeks of hard work that’ll be me ready.
“I would hope to back training with the squad in two weeks and then it’s entirely up to Stephen (Kenny) to choose if I’m going to play.
“I feel optimistic this time that I’ll get back stronger than I’ve ever been.”
The Creggan man clearly becomes frustrated when dwelling on his plight with injuries down the years but as club captain he understands his vital role this season and is anxious to do his talking on the pitch.
“I hate getting caught up about my injury situation, it’s so frustrating,” he added. “As a player you just want to knuckle down and get back and if you could brush it all under the carpet you would. I understand that it has to be said and it has to be addressed.
“I’d rather keep a low profile and get myself back to full fitness but it’s hard when you’re captain of the club and you have to answer questions.
“I’m eager to get back, I feel like a youngster again and can’t wait to get back playing football. After missing most of last season I’m just eager to get back and help the club.
“I’ve asked myself questions along the way. Missing most of last season got me down at times but I’m eager to get back playing and help the team and just have the Brandywell buzzing again playing against good teams.”
Having opted to remain on Foyleside following the conclusion of the turbulent 2009 season, despite interest from Shamrock Rovers, Deery predicted the club would make a swift return to the Premier Division and he has high hopes for the season ahead.
“I always said we would go straight up, I had no doubt that we would be back in the Premier Division. I know Stephen well enough because I’ve played under him for years and I know what he looks for and I knew he wouldn’t be looking to play in the First Division for two or three seasons.
“Hopefully we can put up a good fight against any team that we play this year. I think we have about 18 players in our squad, so we might be shy on numbers but the quality is definitely there.
“We’ll try and finish as high up the table as we can. My main aim is to enjoy the experience, play attractive football and hopefully the fans will enjoy it. Obviously we have to work hard to achieve our objectives, we’ll be honest but hopefully we can have a bit of style, a bit of swagger, play with a smile and have a go at teams.
“I’m confident the players will progress from last year. They went to some very hard venues, the quality of opposition might not have been great but some of the pitches were awful. This year when they’re going to Dalymount or Tallaght, they will be buzzing to play their football.
“We’ll be testing ourselves against the best early on this season and I’ve no doubt we can cause upsets.”
In the absence of last season’s leading goalscorer, Mark Farren, Deery understands that there will be a significant void to fill in the goalscoring stakes and he is confident he can chip in from midfield and even surpass his 2006 tally of nine goals.
“I would preferably get forward more and link up with strikers and get involved in the final third. I should be scoring more goals than what I do.
“The best I’ve ever got was eight or nine in 2006 which isn’t the worst and I’d take that any other year. I played 15 games and only scored two last year and I’m sure if I had of played more I would have scored a few more.
“I have a feeling there will be some very exciting games at the Brandywell this year. We will have to be dogged and determined but we definitely have the quality to surprise a few teams,” concluded the skipper.