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Interviews

DANNY GRAINGER: I made a lot of good friends up there

The club captain on some fantastic memories from Scotland

26 April 2019

Speaking more about his decision to retire from the playing side of the professional game, club captain Danny Grainger explained that he always felt he would know when the time was right to put the boots on the boot room peg one last time.

“My target was always to make it to at least 32 or 33, and I think my body has decided that this is the right time to stop as well,” he told us. “I’ve always had contact injuries, never niggly little ones like I’ve had this year.

“The ones I’ve had this season have been really frustrating. Dolly, Dave [Waldie], Paddy [Maher] and all those guys have been unbelievable with me. I know I’m not the most agile player, but they’ve been able to get me on the pitch week after week for the last five years, but this season has taken its toll.”

“I’m trying not to get too emotional, but it has been a hard decision to make,” he said. “17 years is a long time, so to decide to finish has been difficult. I always said I wanted to finish here, I didn’t want to go and play anywhere else, so I’m happy that I’ve been able to do that.

“It’ll be very strange to not be coming back here for pre-season. There are loads of things that go through your head, and that’s one of them. I don’t know what I’ll do in the summer because I don’t have to run and get fit.

“Heather has already told me to make sure I don’t get fat! It will be a strange summer, just being able to wind down, but I’ll enjoy it with Heather and the kids and see where we go.”

A career that has taken him from rejection with Carlisle as a youngster to a huge Edinburgh derby in a Scottish cup final eventually brought him back to Cumbria, and a more than creditable 34 goals in his 197 appearances.

“I talk about being released from the centre of excellence to my academy lads now,” he said. “Set-backs like that are negatives, but you’ve got to use them as positives and use them as fuel.

“I had a real desire to go and prove people wrong. I got a lucky break when I got my move to Gretna, it was the right timing and everything just fell into place. I had players like Gav Skelton and Richie Prokas, who I’d looked up to for a long time, that I could then just go and speak to.

“They were so open and they really helped me move forward, and with players like that around you it’s easier to become a better player. When I left as a 13-year-old it was obviously upsetting to be told you’re not good enough, but I didn’t accept it. Sometimes people accept that they aren’t good enough, but I wanted to prove them wrong, and thankfully I did.

“I had five or six years at Gretna and it was just down the road, so it was easy to go back and forward from home. When I moved away, myself and Heather had just got together. I went up to Dundee in the January and Heather moved up with me in the October time.

“When we started having kids and things like that we made a decision that we wanted to come home, and I think that was the season before I actually signed here. I’d just done my cruciate, but I came in with Greg [Abbott] and Kav [Graham Kavanagh] in a pre-season, but it didn’t work for me or for the club that year.

“We went back up the road, and the next year, when the move came together, Heather was pregnant with Maisie and Oliver was getting towards school age. We could have stayed up in Scotland for another couple of years, but we made the decision to come home and put down some roots.

“When I spoke to Kav and Davie Irons they were keen for me to come back, and everything just fell into place. It just felt like it was the right time to come home.”

Having written himself into Hearts folklore with a goal in a resounding FA Cup final victory over Hibs at Hampen Park in 2012, he admitted that his time in Scotland had given him an excellent education of the game.

“I loved my time in Scotland,” he confirmed. “The lads take the mick out of it, but it was great being there. There are some massive grounds and big clubs.

“Everything was a learning curve for me up there, and I loved my time at St Johnstone and Dundee United, even though they were tougher seasons team wise. I went to Dunfermline during the latter stages of my career and loved it, even though they were two divisions lower.

“It was with a manager I really got on with [Jim Jefferies], and I still talk to him now. I learned a lot during my time up there but, to be honest, it wasn’t until I came back here that I took most of it on board.

“When I was there I just enjoyed the moment while it was happening, but when you look back at where you’ve been, the grounds you’ve played at, clubs you’ve played against and the stature of the competitions you’ve played in, it really does start to sink in.

“We went to Anfield and White Hart Lane for European games, and that was unbelievable. Those are the things you look back at and you probably don’t appreciate enough at the time. They’re memories that I’ll hold forever.

“I get stick for mentioning my time at Hearts as well, but I made a lot of good friends there. We went through a hard time in terms of being on the brink of administration and not getting paid.

“We watched club staff who we got on well with lose their jobs, but it was the club I grew closest to while I was up in Scotland. I still go back up whenever I can to watch games and I take Oliver with me. To be able to play in a cup final was unbelievable, and to score in it against your biggest rivals is a memory I’ll never forget.”

In the final part of our interview with Danny Grainger he’ll be talking more about his time at Carlisle United, and about what comes next as his playing career draws to a close.

Watch the full 19-minute interview with Danny here:


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