Sky Sports News blare away in the corner of Stewart Greacen’s living room; a folded copy of that day’s Daily Record rests on the coffee table. Stewart has spent the morning catching up on all the latest football news around the country; he’s on the look out for any mention of his beloved Hamilton Academicals.
Derry City lost 1-0 away to Dundalk the night before and Stewart and the rest of the team have been given the day off from training by manager Stephen Kenny.
“We were all disappointed to lose away to Dundalk,” says Stewart as he drinks from a mug of coffee. “But it’s not all bad because Bray beat Shamrock Rovers so we are still only three points behind.”
Stewart signed a one year contract with Derry at the beginning of the year. Whilst on trial with Dundee Stephen Kenny contacted the 29-year-old Lanark born defender to tell that he wanted to bring him to Brandywell.
“If I am honest I was holding out for a move to Dundee but because of their transfer embargo I wasn’t able to sign for them,” explains Stewart.
“I was on my way home one day when my phone rang - it was Stephen Kenny and he told me that he wanted to sign me. I told that if all I had to think about was myself I’d be there in a heart beat but I had to think about my young daughter and my fiancée.”
After much deliberation, Stewart decided to move to Derry. It meant leaving his fiancée Diane and his two-year old daughter Chloe. Although Stewart is enjoying his time as a Derry City player he admits that he finds it difficult being away from his family for long periods of time.
“Stephen Kenny and Sean Barrett on the board of directors have been really supportive and have helped me to settle in. Diane and Chloe have been over to visit me a few times and they like it here. To be honest if I was stay here they’d move to Derry straight away but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
Stewart was born in a small town called Carluke just outside Lanark in March 1982. His late father, John Greacen, was a crane driver for a local steel company whilst his mother, Anna, worked in an Esso garage. Stewart was the youngest of two boys and both he and his older brother Colin spent their time playing football in the street outside the family home.
Stewart’s childhood was typical of the time. When he was at primary school he went to several Scotland international matches and at weekends his father would take him and Colin to watch their local team Hamilton Academicals.
Milton Rovers FC was where Stewart first started to play football. He started out with the local amateur side as a right back but as he started to grow taller he made the move into central defence.
Dundee United invited Stewart for trials when he was 11 and he trained with other young hopefuls three times a week.
“I was still with Milton Rovers when I went to Dundee United and I must have done something right because a Rangers scout noticed me and before I knew it I had signed a contract with them.”
Stewart remained at Ibrox for three years before joining the now defunct Airdrieonians when he was 16.
“I signed a youth training contract with Airdrieonians for two years but when I turned 19 I was able to become a full-time professional - it was a dream come true.”
Stewart’s elation was short-lived as Airdrieonians went into liquidation the following season. Luckily, Stewart had his youthfulness on his side and secured a contract with Livingston.
“I had a couple of decent games for Airdrieonians and as a result I got snapped up by Livingston. I was one of the lucky ones because I was in a squad of about 28 players and after being made redundant only a few of us got full-time contracts again.”
Jim Leishman, now director of football at Dunfermline, was manager of Livingston at the time Stewart signed. Stewart described Leishman as a great manager to play under.
Stewart started to make his way through the ranks at Livingston but after a few appearances on the bench it was decided that he would benefit from going out on loan to Scottish Division Two team Queen of the South. Stewart had agreed to join the Doonhamers for one month and it was expected that if he performed well he would be recalled by Livingston.
“I had three games under my belt when I sustained a really bad knee injury. I was gutted because I was performing really well and I was certain I’d be recalled to Livingston if I did well but the injury ruled me out for the entire season.”
It took Stewart almost a full year to return to match fitness and during the pre-season of 2001 he joined Greenock Morton on loan.
“I had a great pre-season and I was involved in plenty of games for Morton but in the December of 2001 my knee went again and I was out of action for the rest of the season. Those two seasons were extremely tough because here I was, a young man playing football and I was injured for almost two years.”
Livingston made it into the Scottish Premier League in 2001/02 season. They finished third behind Celtic and Rangers and Stewart started to make it onto the bench in 2002/03.
“I was on the fringes but the club were spending big money and you essentially had 25 players at the club who were expecting to play every single week. My contract was up at the end of the season so when Greenock Morton offered me a deal I jumped at the chance.”
Greenock Morton were in the second division at the time and were under the stewardship of John McCormack. Stewart recalled happy memories at Morton. He captained the club to promotion in 2006/07 but things soon turned sour when the club appointed Allan Moore as manager in 2010.
“I really enjoyed my time playing for Morton. Some of the highlights of my career to date were with them. It was great when we won promotion in 2007. We had been trying for the three seasons previous and we missed out narrowly a few times.
“When we did reach the First Division it became tough. It was real jump between the second and first division - I think it’s more of a jump in quality when you compare it to the gap between the first division and the Scottish Premier League. Nevertheless, I had some great times there and I was over the moon when the fans voted me as their player of the year in 2008.09.
“Davie Irons replaced John McCormack as manager at Morton - he had a great effect on my career. He was a defender in his playing days so I always knew where he was coming from.
“The board sacked Davie after only six games into the 2009 season. I thought it was a bit harsh to be honest. They replaced him with two players, Alan McManus and James Grady who took over the club for just one season. They were eventually replaced by Allan Moore and we didn’t see eye to eye so a few days before Christmas last year I agreed to leave the club by mutual consent.”
After eight seasons and almost 250 games, Stewart left Greenock Morton on December 22, 2011. After attracting the attention of Ross County and Dundee United he eventually decided to sign for Derry City.
“I was totally disillusioned with Scottish football and I wanted a change of scenery. The only bad thing was that I had to leave my family behind but everyone has been so supportive - I can’t speak highly enough of everyone at Derry City.”
It was after several phone conversations with Derry boss Stephen Kenny that Stewart’s mind was made up. He said that at the time he knew that signing for Derry would be a gamble but he says that everything has worked out and he is happy where he is.
“Stephen really sold Derry to me,” says Stewart. “He told me about the players already at the club and explained to me where he saw Derry finishing in the league. He told about the new board and how everything at the club was being run very professionally. It’s been a great few months here and I have really settled in with the rest of the team.”
When he’s not playing football Stewart likes to meet up with a few of his team mates to play golf. When pressed for his favourite type of music and film he laughed and said that he wasn’t really that interested in either.
“I am not that really interested in music. When I joined Derry at the start of the year I was living with Eamon Zayed. Eamon is really into his music and films. When I told him that I’d never watch The Godfather he couldn’t believe it - I watched it for the first time last month - it was just ok,” says Stewart laughing.
Asked if would consider staying at Brandywell next season, Stewart refused to rule anything out.
“I am happy here and I am happy playing football here. I know if I said to Diane and Chloe about moving here they would, but I’ll just have to wait and see.”