More MS news articles for August 2002

This is my last season as player, says Irvine

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09:00 - 26 July 2002
DUNCAN MCKENZIE
 
One of football's last remaining gentlemen will close the chapter on an extraordinary career at the end of the coming season.

Ross County defender Brian Irvine insists the 2002-03 season will be his last as a player, but he says he is desperate to continue his love affair with the game in a coaching role.

After a career which has spanned two decades Irvine, 37, feels the time is right to make way for the younger blood when his fourth season at County draws to a close.

The committed Christian has been forced to draw on all his faith during the darker periods in his career, one of which saw him battle back to the top after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

He is, without doubt, football's Mr Nice Guy, someone who is never too busy to stop and give you a minute of his time.

And with this positive outlook on life the County defender refuses to view his decision as a negative one preferring to dwell on the plus points.

He said: "There's no point in being sad or negative because this will be my last season.

"I see it as a very positive thing because I will enjoy it more. Because it's my last then I will be giving it my all and trying to do my very best.

"We are well under way with pre-season and I feel a real hunger for the game.

"After all these years people might think it would be hard to get the right motivation, but I don't have a problem getting motivated.

"Seeing the youngsters at the club with all the enthusiasm they have really gives me a lift."

Irvine also paid tribute to County's fitness coach Ally Watt, who he says has made pre-season a joy rather than a hard slog.

He said: "This has been a very well thought out pre-season and I think everyone has enjoyed it.

"It's not just been running till you drop. We have worked hard on recovery and training. It's been a plus and not just because of my age.

"I just hope we can get off to a good start this season and continue where we left off last term."

County enjoyed a tremendous second half of the season, going nearly half the term unbeaten.

The big defender has been right to the top in the professional game, lifting the Scottish Cup in 1990 with his former club and boyhood favourites Aberdeen.

He was also capped for Scotland nine times. He made his debut in 1991 against Romania and played his last match against Holland in 1994.

And Irvine has admitted he would love to return to Pittodrie one day, possibly in a coaching role.

He said: "It's no secret that I would love to go back to Aberdeen one day.

"I have always held the club close to my heart and would jump at the chance to go back."

Brian says he sees the ethos of commitment, which he felt during his time at the club, returning to Pittodrie.

He said: "I think it's great to hear the young players saying they are willing to commit themselves to the club.

"There was a time when that disappeared with players coming and going, but it's coming back now and the club can only benefit from that."

He says one of the lowest points in his career was when former Dons boss Roy Aitken told him it was time to move on.

Irvine said: "I really loved the club and I felt I still had something to offer, but the manager told me it was time I went.

"Stewart McKimmie, Brian Grant and myself were considered to be too involved with the club and Aitken was trying to bring in his own players.

"Unfortunately for Aberdeen, it kind of backfired for him.

"But I was very upset when that happened."

After the Dons, Irvine won himself a move to Dundee and he was delighted to be given the chance to continue playing Premier League football.

He had the chance to return to Aberdeen in 1999, but when the offer came in his move to County was too far down the line to turn it down.

However, Irvine admits he made the right decision.

"I don't think it would have been the same if I'd gone back to Aberdeen and I've really enjoyed my time in Dingwall."

The Falkirk-born defender has refused to rule out playing part-time football when his County contract expires at the end of the coming season, but he says his time in the top flight has to come to an end some day.

He has been linked with a possible move to Peterhead when he leaves County. It would suit Irvine, who is keen to move back to his home town.

Irvine concluded: "I am delighted still to be playing at this level at 37 years old and am thankful to be doing what I am doing.

"My advice to every footballer is to enjoy the game."