Derry City fanatics looking forward to Brandywell return

Derry City fans will return to the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium for the first time in 15 months on Friday night and for one brave, young Candy Stripes fan, his ‘golden ticket’ caps a remarkable recovery.

Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 6:04 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 6:06 pm
Young Caleb Toland and his father Richie are looking forward to returning to the Brandywell this Friday night.

Five year old Caleb Toland underwent major brain surgery only last month but this week received the news that he and his father, Richie, were two of the lucky supporters who will be attending the game against Bohemians.

It was a nervous wait for the pair, especially as Caleb got his confirmation ahead of his dad, but Richie says the news was like Christmas coming early for the Derry City obsessed youngster.

“I set my membership up on my own email address with a different one for Caleb so when I saw Derry City’s tweet saying fans were being notified about tickets, I went straight to the wee man’s first and saw he got a ticket. I was praying when I checked my email account, hoping I would get the same and thankfully I did,” explained Richie.

“I’m delighted but even if I hadn’t have got one, I would have made sure Caleb was going with his. I’m buzzing for both of us but especially the wee man.”

Now Caleb, who recently received signed jerseys from Spurs and England striker, Harry Kane, and Ireland international, James McClean, says he can’t wait to see his favourite player Ciaron Harkin in action again.

“He’s the warrior in the house but every day since he has come home he has been asking me, ‘When are we going to the football?’” added his father. “So when I told him last night that he was going again, he was running about the house shouting, ‘Yes!’

“His next words were, ‘Can I see wee Jackie?’ (Ciaron Harkin) as he’s his favourite player.

“He’s getting better each day and I know getting back to the Brandywell will give him a huge lift. In fact, he got up this morning and asked me was it Friday so I’m going to be hearing that for the next few days. It’s just like Christmas when he asks ‘Is Santa coming tonight?’

“Since the operation, the one thing he kept asking about was football and getting back to Derry City so this is a dream come true for him.”

Richie, who like his son is also a massive Spurs supporter, says the anticipation of getting ready and driving to the Brandywell once more is making even him feel like a kid again.

“It’s going to be great, putting the Derry top, hat and scarves on and getting suited up before driving to the Brandywell. I really can’t wait to finally get back to the Brandywell and see a live match again,” he added.

“I have watched every game on TV, but it’s not the same, there’s no comparison whatsoever.

“I would say the players are looking forward to the fans coming back because it must be eerie playing in an empty stadium. Watching the games on television, it just wasn’t the same so seeing the players running out on Friday with ‘Teenage Kicks’ playing, that’s going to be unreal. It’s been 15 odd months since they’ve had anything like that so it’s going to be great.

“If Derry score the cheer from the crowd is going to be class. It’s crazy that it’s come full circle and our first game with fans back in the ground is against Bohs as that was the last match we were at more than a year ago.

“I have to admit I would have been very jealous if I’d seen people getting tickets and I didn’t. I would have been heart broken but thankfully that’s not the case. Me and the wee man and a few of my muckers have all got tickets so we can’t wait to see each other in the Brandywell and cheer the boys on.”

Since Derry supporters last attended a match, Ruaidhri Higgins has taken over as manager and Toland is confident the Limavady man will continue to bring out the best in this young Derry side.

“Ruaidhri seems to have brought the best out of wee Jackie because who is thriving while (Nathan) Gartside has been very good after what was a shaky start. He has made big saves and kept us in games,” he said.

“I think Higgins is the man and he’s going to do wonders if he’s given a bit of backing.

“Bohs are a good side so I’m expecting a good game with both teams trying to play football and getting the ball down.”