Damien Duff has today given a long interview with the Northern Echo where he addresses quite a few subjects, including the fitness of the players at Newcastle and his many injuries.
Damien Duff - a talent when the Irishman was very young
Damien told the Northern Echo today:
“I don’t want to keep harping on my injury problems, but other people seem to want to,” “It’s frustrating every time you get an injury, but I guess I’m getting used to them.
“They’ve been part and parcel of football for me. I’ve had quite a few serious injuries now.”
The injury initially appeared to be a fairly slight one to his ankle, but a further examination revealed bone and ligament damage and the injury became career threatening as the surgeon said he had never seen an ankle injury like it.
Duff returned to the Newcastle team in December after being out of action for eight months and has appeared in our last 13 games on the trot. Damien continued:
“It was particularly disappointing to get injuries so soon after joining a new club,” “And they’ve hampered me for a fairly large proportion of my time at Newcastle.“
“First and foremost, I’m just glad to be back playing. The injuries don’t help your form, but I’m back now and feeling good.”
Duff is also feeling fit and yesterday he revealed for the first time that he didn’t think the players were very fit under Sam Allardyce, which has caused some raised eyebrows amongst the Newcastle faithful, that’s for sure.
Results might not be there right now, but Duff says the current Newcastle squad is much fitter than the one Allardyce left to Kevin Keegan in mid- January:
“I don’t think we were the fittest before he (Keegan) came here,” “I know Big Sam used to say we were the fittest around, but I think we were far from it.” “It feels as though I’ve been doing a pre-season for the last six months but, as a group, I think we could have been fitter.”
“One of the gaffer’s favorite quotes is that the work you put in on the training pitch comes out on a Saturday.” “That’s what we’ve been doing since he came in.”
“It’s been hard work, but I think that’s what we need if we’re going to play as well as we can do.”
Duff was born in south Dublin, in 1979, and came to fame when he was in the Ireland youth team that claimed 3rd place at the World Youth Championships in Malaysia in 1997. A young 18 year-old at the time Duff was outstanding for the Ireland team.
Brian Kerr was Ireland’s youth coach at the time and became Duff’s future manager at the full international level a couple of years ago. Brian remembered that tournament:
“Damien was small but, from the first training session, I knew he’d be okay,”
“I began to think not only will he be in the side, he’ll be our best player. He can fit into any tactical plan but, at times, I’d give a team talk and say to Damien, You heard that but now forget it – just go out and cause them trouble’.”
Damien had joined Blackburn Rovers in 1996 and his early displays at Ewood Park were sparkling, but Blackburn still were relegated from the Premier League in 1999.
Promotion was achieved two seasons later, when Graeme Souness had taken over the club, and Duff finished the 2002-03 season as Blackburn’s leading scorer with 11 goals.
The former Middlesbrough midfielder Craig Hignett remembers those days when he was at Blackburn with Duff:
“I’ve played with some brilliant players during my career,” “But I’ve never seen a talent like Damien Duff.
“Gazza was special and Juninho was a little box of tricks, but neither had the explosive skills that Damien possesses.”
Then Duff moved to Chelsea of course in a Â£17m move in July of 2003, before Newcastle United seemingly picked him up for a bargain Â£5M transfer in the summer of 2006, when Glenn Roeder was still manager.
He has so far appeared only 46 times for Newcastle with just two goals. But with Kevin Keegan now at the club, the stage is set for Damien to regain all of his old form and we’ve seen glimpses, but only glimpses so far, of those mercurial skills.
“The relegation was one of the lowest times of my life,” “I was only a kid – 20 or 21 – but I ended up having to do two years in the Championship.”
“To be fair, I have a brutal memory. I can’t even remember yesterday, but I remember that Brian Kidd came in and spent an awful lot of money, so it doesn’t matter how big or good your squad is, it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically stay up.”
“We’re not thinking about relegation, but we know we have to work hard as a club to put things right.”
We’re looking forward to the game today but last week, in the bitter and heavy loss to Manchester United, Damien was probably our best player.
We’re looking for another good display today from Duff, and since it’s against his first professional club Blackburn, for whom he appeared 185 times and scored 27 goals over 7 years there, maybe he can also get a goal for us – we certainly need them.