Football

Celtic Job Interview Had Damien Duff Totally 'Rattled'

Celtic Job Interview Had Damien Duff Totally 'Rattled'

Damien Duff says the interview process to become Celtic reserve team manager is the "hardest thing" he's ever done.

The former Ireland international joined the Scottish club in early 2019 after spending time as manager of the Shamrock Rovers U15 team. A few months later, when Brendan Rodgers left Celtic, Duff was bumped up to join the first team coaching staff under Neil Lennon.

"I just got a few calls going 'Celtic would like to talk to you about the reserve team role' and I was like, 'What do they want me for?'" Duff told Si Ferry's Open Goal podcast.

"I had a couple of these over a month. Then it was more concrete. Peter Lawwell wanted to speak with me. I rang Peter and then spoke to [head of Celtic's youth academy] Chris McCart. It got out of hand then. I was just planning on living in Ireland.

"I thought the job was mine, being a bit stupid. Chris said to come over and have a look around the place and see if you want the job. Then he rings me back an hour later and says, 'The interview will start at two o'clock. You have to do a presentation, then a practical on the pitch. Then I was thinking, 'Oh, it's actually not your job'.

"Then the ego took over and I thought, 'Right, I'm going to go and get this job, get offered it anyway'. I went over and it was the most nerve-wracking out-of-your-comfort-zone stuff I've done.

"There was a general chat for an hour and then presenting to Brendan Rodgers and John Kennedy. I played three-box-three here with my 15-year-olds.

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"So I was presenting to Brendan how to play three-box-three [formation], mortified, [because] he knows better than anyone. I've got my footage saying, 'If he goes here, he should go here' and I'm just thinking, 'Duffer, just shut up, man'.

"Then I had to go out on the pitch for 40 minutes with the reserves who were a miserable group. They're at an age where they're like, 'I'm not in the first team and I'm getting dragged in here at four o'clock in the afternoon to get coached by this muppet from Ireland'.

"It was the hardest thing I've ever done, without doubt. Fortunately, I got offered the job.

"Football was just natural to me, you get the butterflies, which is good. This, I was just absolutely rattled. I couldn't take my blazer off because I had big sweat patches. Ah, rattled."

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Early in his time as reserve coach, Duff had no hesitation in telling his players what he thought of them.

"They're 18, 19-years-of-age and think they should be over the road with the first team but they haven't done it yet," he said.

"A bit of attitude seeps in and maybe a lack of hunger or enthusiasm. That's not Celtic boys, that's that age in general. That's across the board in football now, 18, 19-year-olds who haven't made the first team but have been given good contracts and are playing at big clubs. They think they're someone they're not. I hate saying it but it's the God's honest truth.

"I think it was Ayr away and I remember telling them, 'Youse are the most miserable set of lads I've come across in my life'. After the six or eight weeks that I was there with them, we did build a nice bond."

Duff 's time with Celtic ended last month with the 41-year-old citing family commitments as being his reason for leaving Parkhead. He has taken up a role as assistant coach to new Ireland manager Stephen Kenny.

"I feel like I'm learning the game all over again," said Duff.

"You do your own thing as a player and you're so focussed but you have a different viewpoint now. I remember on my first coaching licence, I got given a session on wingers and I'd like think I was able to play as a winger and understand the role but I could coach them. I couldn't tell them where to run, how to run, when to run. I was the worst coach on my b-licence.

"I just realised then that I needed to step back and dissect the game. That's what I do daily. I was a half decent player, I did OK, but I feel like I'm learning it all over again.

"When I went in with the [Celtic] first team. It helped that I'd played. I got a bit of respect with the lads. I ended up building an amazing bond with them."

Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

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PJ Browne
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