Derry City central defender, Stewart Greacen, believes that if the team can avoid a repeat of last season’s injury crisis they will be in with a great chance of competing for silverware in 2013.
“I believe that we were unlucky with some of the injuries we picked up last season. Don’t get me wrong, some of our home performances were not great and the injuries didn’t excuse them but I honestly believe that if we have more luck in terms of injuries this year then we will do much better in all of the competitions.”
Greacen, who is in his final year of a two year contract, experienced his fair share of injuries last season but with the joy that accompanied the FAI Cup win in November, he is determined to be fighting fit when the season starts in March.
“I’d agree, last season was a bit bitter-sweet for me. It was frustrating in many ways because of the amount of injuries I picked up - I am not used to being injured.
“But in saying that, all of the hard work was made worthwhile when we won the FAI Cup in Dublin.”
Greacen picked up a knee injury when he collided with the Drogheda goalkeeper in Hunky Dorys Park and after returning to first team action he damaged ankle ligaments when he clashed with Sligo Rovers goalkeeper Gary Rogers.
“I think I might avoid going up for corners this year,” laughed Greacen.
“I was so unfortunate that both my injuries happened because I clashed with goalkeepers. I’ll be keeping a watchful eye on them this season.” he joked.
The Derry City team reported back for pre-season training last Saturday morning and Greacen said that he was relieved to have the first week over and done with.
“Pre-season training is so tough,” said the 30 year-old Scot.
“Most of the lads have worked hard over the off-season and some of the locally based ones have been working with a local fitness coach, Seamus Fox. We are actually trying out a bit of yoga this afternoon. I’ve never done yoga before so I haven’t a notion what it’s going to be like.
“It’s always good to get the first week of pre-season training over and done with. The aches and pains are back but with the core work we have been doing during the off-season it’s not so bad,” he smiled.
Greacen’s fiancée, Diane and four year-old daughter, Chloe, live in Scotland but the tall centre-back tries to see them as much as he can.
Soon after the FAI Cup win November, Greacen returned home to Scotland where he spent Christmas with his fiancée, daughter, mother and brother.
“It was just a nice and relaxing family Christmas,” said Greacen.
“It was great to see all of the family again and I even managed to get a bit of fitness work done when I was back too.”
In the 2006/07 season, Greacen won the Scottish Second Division title with Greenock Morton. The Lanark born defender is still proud of captaining the Pride of the Clyde to league success but revealed that winning the FAI Cup with Derry last year was amongst the greatest experiences of his football career.
“Winning the Second Division with Morton was great and I don’t think it’s any better or any worse than winning the FAI Cup with Derry - it’s impossible to separate them.
“When I was with Morton we won the Second Division pretty comfortably and we were favourites but I suppose the opposite could be said for the FAI Cup final. St. Patrick’s Athletic were favourites to win the game that day and for us to win the cup the way we did was just an amazing feeling. Along with winning the league with Morton, the FAI Cup win is one of the highlights of my career.”
Derry’s home form was not what many had hoped last season but towards the end of the league campaign when several key players, including Greacen, returned to first team action the team’s on the field fortunes started to change and the Candy Stripes finished the 2012 season strongly.
“I remember when I was injured sitting watching a few of the games from home and in the stand you could see five, six and sometimes even seven senior players out injured - that’s inevitably going to impact upon any team.
“That meant that a lot of the younger players were thrown in at the deep end and it was always going to be tough for them.
“But like you said, when players like myself, Kevin Deery and Rory Patterson started to come back things started to improve. I hope we can be more lucky this year.”
Although happy to learn from the lessons of last season Greacen has his sights set on making 2013 one to remember. The defender’s face lights up when the conversation moves on to the prospect of European football and with only one year left on his current contract he is refusing to take anything for granted.
“With football you never know where you are going to be. Things can change from one end of the year to the next and it’s a long way until October but we will wait and see what happens.
“The people of Derry make me feel very welcome here. My next door neighbour is a season ticket holder and we are always chatting about things at the club. I think Derry is very like Scotland and the people are great. I am enjoying living here and I am enjoying my football too.”
He added: “On a personal level, I can’t wait for European football. It’s the reason we play football. We want the big nights at the Brandywell and we want the fans to enjoy it too.
“We are in five competitions next season. There will be plenty going on and we have a tough start to the league when we take on Sligo Rovers at home at the start of March.
“Everyone is looking forward to the new season and everyone is excited because we have added some decent players over the off-season so it’s just a case of put in the hard work now and get ready for it all to start all over again. There’s a lot to look forward to.”