DARREN COLE says the prospect of playing European football at the new Brandywell Stadium was enough to entice him to extend his contract with Derry City.
The Scottish centre-half yesterday penned a new one-year deal which will keep him on Foyleside until the end of the 2018 season and he admits it didn’t take an awful lot of convincing from Derry City boss, Kenny Shiels.
“I made my mind up a while ago and as soon as I was asked I didn’t think twice about it,” he said. “I think I’ve done well since I’ve come in and I’ve helped the team. The team has done well but obviously the last few weeks hasn’t been great.
”I can’t wait to get underway,” he added. “I have really enjoyed my time here with all the boys. We are still fighting for that European spot for next season and I’m excited to see what the Brandywell is all about.
“If you play in front of the bigger crowds then it makes you play better and want to play better, so if we’re getting bigger crowds and playing better then things should work out well next season.”
Signed last July, the 25 year-old former Rangers defender has fitted in seamlessly with Shiels’ squad since joining from Scottish junior outfit, Broxburn, proving to be comfortable on the ball and he’s formed a solid partnership with regular centre-half, Aaron Barry.
I think every player wants to play in Europe. It obviously helps you as a player and I think if we do play in Europe then it will attract more players and we’ll maybe get better players to sign.Darren Cole
Cole, who has also had spells with Scottish clubs, Partick Thistle, Greenock Morton and Livingston, believes City have salvaged their season with Friday night’s 2-1 win over Drogheda United which arrested a four game losing run and re-ignited their quest for Europe.
As City close in on that Europa League spot, Cole reckons a third place finish this season will help attract quality players to the Brandywell outfit next year.
“Hopefully we can win these next few games and cement this third spot, or if not, then fourth, and get that European spot. It was one of the reasons I signed.
“I think every player wants to play in Europe. It obviously helps you as a player and I think if we do play in Europe then it will attract more players and we’ll maybe get better players to sign.
“If we pick up a few wins in the next few games it will cement that spot and our more experienced players will also sign. That will obviously help the team for next year.”
When the Edinburgh man first signed for the club in the summer, he admittedly didn’t know too much about the standard of football in the League of Ireland. And after his debut performance in a one-sided 4-0 romp over Sligo Rovers, it must’ve felt like he was in for an easy ride.
A debut goal in his first North West derby against Finn Harps was to follow as Derry went four matches without conceding a goal including an impressive 2-0 win away to Shamrock Rovers with a new-look defensive line-up and things couldn’t have went much smoother for the Scotsman.
However, that run was to end with heavy 4-0 losses to Dundalk in both league and FAI Cup as Cole became aware of the gulf between clubs at opposite ends of the table. As he becomes more familiar with the league, he firmly believes Derry City can compete with the best it has to offer.
“I wouldn’t say it was easy at the start but it was clear that there’s definitely a difference between the teams at the bottom of the league who are not as good as those in the top half.
“I just think we’re a better side than we’re actually showing at the moment and if we win our next four games we’ll show that.
“If we get our regular back four, which kept those clean sheets, back fit then that will definitely help us achieve our goal. Aaron Barry is a good man and a good pro and great to play alongside. He can help me with my game. He doesn’t stop talking and he’s a good player.
“I’ve enjoyed my time here and I think we’ve got a good side so I’m looking for forward to playing with the club again next season.”