Grea-can’t

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DERRY City’s long-standing tradition of attracting players from Scotland will continue into the 2011 Premier Division after Brandywell boss, Stephen Kenny, revealed a new central defender yesterday.

ARTHUR DUFFY reports

The Dubliner has secured the services of former Morton skipper, Stewart Greacen, who signed a one season contract having departed the Scottish club late last year.

The 28-year-old, who has played almost 250 first team games for the Scottish First Division club over two spells, joined his new team-mates for yesterday afternoon’s training session and he will make his first appearance for the “Candy Stripes” at Stangmore Park tonight (Tuesday) against Dungannon Swifts.

And while Greacen was fully aware of the progression of Derry City, having watched the club perform in the Setanta Cup on television over recent seasons, he took advice from a number of people before making a commitment.

“I watched Derry play on Setanta television a few season ago and the standard appeared to be quite good. I knew of Stephen Kenny from when he managed Dunfermline. I played against them with Morton and was very interested in talking to him when he made contact with me.

“I had a chat with John Robertson, who managed Derry for a short spell, and I also made contact with Tam McManus through a friend of mine, before agreeing to come here,” explained the Scot at yesterday’s Press Conference.

“Both individuals were very positive about me moving to Ireland for a season, suggesting that Derry City would be a top club and it would prove a good experience for me.”

The appointment of a new manager at Morton caused the long-standing defender a few problems last season and having fulfilled his contractual obligations, he opted to move on.

He actually played for Dundee as a trialist in their recent 2-1 away win at Queen of the South but due to the transfer embargo placed on Dundee who are attempting to come out of Administration, Greacen was not prepared to wait around.

“I’ve received a number of offers from other Scottish clubs, but those deals only extend to the end of the current season which ends in a few months. Derry City, however, offered me a contract until November and that gives me a degree of security which is very important.

“But a move to another league presents me with a new challenge and I’d like to experience playing football in Ireland. So the challenge and the security appealed to me and having had discussions with Stephen Kenny, I agreed to join the club.”

The player revealed Kenny had remembered him playing for Morton but when he received the Derry manager’s telephone call, it came as a total surprise.

“I’ve been playing in the Scottish First Division for eight years so a change in environment would not do me any harm at all.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for me to experience football in Ireland, a fresh challenge is what I need at the moment. I’m coming over to live in Derry and will remain here until the end of the season initially, which suited both myself and the club.”

Having harboured hopes of actually signing for Dundee, Greacen felt he could not afford to wait until the club sorted out its financial difficulties.

“I agreed to play for Dundee as a trialist a week ago in the 2-1 away victory over Queen of the South, but Dundee are not yet in a position to sign players. I would have signed for the club had it been okay to do so, as that would have been a step up for me, but it didn’t work out and I felt I had to move on.

“The Derry City offer has come as a bit of a surprise, but it was great to have another option. I did a bit of research into the club and I’m aware that it faced financial difficulties a few years ago before a rebuilding process had taken place in the First Division.

“And having won the First Division last season, I think exciting times will lie ahead with a young team. As a 28-year-old, I would be delighted to play my part in that.

“I feel I’m in my prime and believe I have a few years ahead of me and given what the manager and I talked about, he’s certainly very excited about the new season.

“He’s appears to be anxious to re-establish Derry’s prominence in the top league and hopefully we will enjoy a successful season,” continued the player.

Having played as a senior professional for the past 12 years, the player was also excited at the change of scenery.

“In Scotland we play teams four times a season - sometimes more depending on cup draws - so I will enjoy a change of scenery. I want to play in stadiums I’ve not played in during my career and, of course, face new teams and players etc. I’m looking forward to that.”

Described as a “no-nonsense and aggressive centre-back,” Greacen said he would be delighted to assist Derry’s younger players who are making their way in the senior game.

“Experience is very important to young players and while I may be 28, hopefully my best years are still ahead of me as I feel I get better. I’d be delighted to assist young lads playing around me and having been captain at Morton for six years, I think I’m well equipped in relation to experience. I’m really looking forward to it.

“A Good Professional”

Meanwhile, Stephen Kenny appears to have secured what he had hoped for when securing the services of Scot, Stewart Greacen, the one year contract signed at the Brandywell yesterday afternoon.

Having watched him play for Morton against Dunfermline when Kenny managed “The Pars” in 2009, the Dubliner was taken in by a central defender who seemed to win every ball his side had crossed into the danger area.

“I remember losing that game 1-0 despite the fact that Dunfermline had dominated the possession,” recalled Kenny at yesterday’s Press Conference.

“We put so many crosses into the box but he seemed to get his head to everything which infuriated me. I travelled to watch him after that game when in Scotland and he regularly made his presence felt when captain of Greenock Morton,” added Kenny.

“He’s 6’ 2” and a player who always seems to catch the eye with his involvement in the action. He is what he is, an out-an-out central defender and given that we have Danny Lafferty and Eddie McCallion who are considered two small full-backs while Shane McEleney is new to this level, we needed both a physical presence and a leader and in Stewart I believe we have achieved that.

“Danny and Shane are both excellent when on the ball and possess good recovery pace, but they must improve on their defending when playing in the Premier Division. I’m delighted with their development and they are both very talented individuals, but they need to work on their defensive side.

“Eddie, interestingly, is the only defender we have who has experienced playing at the top level in the League of Ireland, so it was vitally important that we brought in a player with good leadership qualities and given that Stewart has captained Morton since he was 22 or 23, says quite a lot about his leadership qualities.

“We’re considered a small team and we needed to have a bit of balance in central defence. We need to defend our box when we need to and, of course, defend set-piece situations. Stewart is a good communicator and a good professional. He gives us a bit of height and he’s good when attacking the ball. I believe he will have a good influence on our young team and I’m confident he will fit into our set up with ease.

“He is a good professional, he has good values, he’s brave and courageous and loves being a professional footballer. He likes to prepare well and is excited with this new challenge and I believe he will prove popular at the Brandywell and do well.

“He was a young player in the SPL with Livingston and while he travelled down the leagues in Scotland to Greenock Morton, he captained the team to winning the Second Division title.

“As they say in Scotland, he’s a good type and is of good character. When I spoke to him initially, he was enthusiastic about coming over to the League of Ireland and he was aware of the quality that exists here. He was aware of teams which represent our league and, indeed, knows quite a few players who have experienced life over here.”

Greacen becomes Derry’s fifth signing with Stephen McLaughlin, Ruaidhri Higgins, Gareth McGlynn, Eamon Zayed already signed.

Seamus Sharkey (gone to Australia), Darren McCauley (gone to USA), Mark McChrystal (Tranmere Rovers), Vinny Sweeney and Darren Cassidy (Crusaders) have all left as has Mark Scoltock with striker, Mark Farren, currently recuperating from major surgery, suggesting that this season’s squad will be smaller than that which represented the club in the First Division.

Kenny, however, points to the involvement of youth players coming through the ranks. “Five players have come in and they are all ready to join the first team squad and improve it while young players such as Ryan McBride and Sean McCarron have come through the youth ranks and I expect them to push into the squad and compete for first team places this season,” continued Kenny.