Derry City supporters got the chance to put questions to the manager, the chairman and some players in the Derry City Social Club on Thursday evening.
Derry’s recent league form has been in stark contrast to how they have performed for the majority of the season. Last Tuesday they lost 1-0 to league leaders St. Patrick’s Athletic at the Brandywell and last weekend they suffered their heaviest defeat of the season when they went down 4-1 against Cork City in Turner’s Cross.
It was expected that manager Declan Devine and players Ruaidhri Higgins and Rory Patterson would get a lukewarm reception when they entered the room to take part in the questions and answers sessions. It was, for the vast majority of the time, anything but.
Most of the fans who asked questions did so in a constructive and respectful way and Devine, his players and Chairman Philip O’Doherty did their very best to answer each question as best they could.
Topics discussed included the future of the Brandywell project, player discipline both off and on the pitch and one supporter, who must be going to different games to everyone else accused Rory Patterson of taking too many 40 yard free kicks.
It was inevitable at an open forum that some trivial matters would be focused on but all of those on the panel performed with tremendous professionalism and humility.
Derry City manager, Declan Devine, spoke from the heart when asked if he still thought he was the right man for the job.
Devine had no prepared speech and spoke directly to each and every supporter in the game with his words.
“The two most important things in my life are my family and my work - I don’t care about anything else,” said Devine.
“No one is more disappointed than the way recent results have gone as I am and believe me, I want things to improve just as much as you all do.
“I am the manager and the buck stops with me at the end of the day but I still believe I can win trophies with Derry City. If I didn’t still believe that I would be the first person to knock on Philip O’Doherty’s door and ask him to get me out of here.”
The atmosphere in the room was one of mutual respect which meant once thought delicate questions, such as the alleged pre-match activities of some players, could be discussed openly.
One supporter quizzed Devine on the “rumours” that some Derry players are choosing to ignore strict rules on drinking alcohol before games.
“We have a strict rule when it comes to alcohol,” answered Devine.
“We tell our players they are not allowed to drink alcohol 72 hours before a game and yes, there have been times when that rule has been broken and those players have been dealt with.
“When it comes to football you are always going to have to deal with things like this but the players know where I and the management stand when it comes to things like this.
“I have heard the rumours too. I have heard that there are rumours of fighting within the dressing room - I can tell you now that they are totally unfounded. We have a great atmosphere within the dressing room.”
Devine added that was naive for anyone to expect every player to be of the same frame of mind when it came to their focus on performing for Derry City. The former goalkeeper said that every club “you are always going to get players who are looking out for themselves”.
“Look, it’s nothing new. You are always going to get players who are looking out for themselves.
“I’d say 95 per cent of the players at the club are doing what I want but you are always going to get players who are coming to the end of their contract or they want a move away - that’s just human nature I suppose.”
The Candy Stripes boss was then asked if he was worried about the frequency at which some players were getting injured.
“It’s something we have been discussing and we have Seamus Fox in now working with the players on strength and conditioning.
“Kevin Deery has been very unlucky with injury and he has very little cartilage left in his knee but if there’s one thing I will never underestimate is Kevin’s ability to bounce back - I have no doubt he’ll be back before long.
“Also, Stewart Greacen will start light training soon after his knee injury so hopefully we will be in a good position going into the final few games of the season.”
Derry City striker, Rory Patterson, was asked by one fan if he thought his on pitch discipline was good enough for a player of his stature. Some of the fans in the room were somewhat frustrated with Patterson for picking up “needless” yellow cards.
“Look, that’s just the way I am. I am passionate and I want to score goals and win matches for this team. It’s in my nature and if you are looking for a mute on the pitch then you’ll lose a player.”
At this response, the room erupted into a mixture of laughter and applause. It was par for the course. Honest questions and honest answers. It wasn’t the last applause of the night!