Interviews

The big interview: Damien Duff – "I cried on the day I left Chelsea – looking back, I should have fought for my place"

Damien Duff
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You once said that you liked to sleep. Do you still enjoy a really good kip?
Barry Parkinson, Blackburn

I’d possibly go to bed every afternoon if I didn’t have two kids – they’re both scuppering it! [Laughs] I lived alone from 18 to 28 and every single day after training I’d go home and sleep. The lads knew me. They’d ask, ‘Where’s Duffer gone? More than likely he’s gone back to bed.’ I enjoy it more than most, I won’t lie. That’s why I look so young!

How did you feel after Thierry Henry’s handball in the play-offs denied you a place at the 2010 World Cup finals?
Richard O’Leary, Limerick

It was incredible in this day and age that someone could get away with it, but if it was down the other end I’d have done it

It was incredible in this day and age that someone could get away with it, but if it was down the other end I’d have done it, too. He was playing the game, so I’ve no problem with Thierry Henry. But I was distraught. That’s the hardest I’ve ever been hit by a result. After 2002 I always thought I’d go to another World Cup, but I never did.

Do you remember having a beer with us after the 2010 Europa League Final?
YJ, London

I don’t think anything will beat that night against Juventus: 4-1 down on aggregate with 80 minutes to go at Craven Cottage

[Laughs] I do! I went out in my Fulham tracksuit at 4am, smoking cigarettes and just getting drunk. I guess that’s what good old Irish people do – they drown their sorrows. I was in some little bar and there were Fulham fans in there – I don’t think I even went to bed.

But on the way to that final there were nights the fans will never forget. I don’t think anything will beat that night against Juventus: 4-1 down on aggregate with 80 minutes to go at Craven Cottage. And we also saw off Shakhtar Donetsk, who were one of the best teams I have ever played; Wolfsburg and Hamburg – it was an incredible run. We were so well drilled, and I put an awful lot of that down to Roy. Even Atletico Madrid only scored late on in extra time to win the final.

What prompted you to play in Australia with Melbourne City?
Oliver Jarman, via Twitter

It was a different life experience. Fulham had just been relegated from the Premier League and the people upstairs at the football club should take some responsibility for that because of the way they started to run it – a squad of 20 or 24 players, bringing in loan signings, trying to be too clever – and it bit them. Melbourne City was a great project. They’re part of the City Group and I still look fondly at Manchester City for what they did for me. It was just amazing to get to experience another part of the world.

Do you regret your time playing for Shamrock Rovers in 2015?
David Kent, Ashbourne, Ireland

It was difficult. I wanted to go home and make a contribution, so I signed for a year-and-a-half. But for whatever reason I was getting a minute here, a minute there and I had no interest in doing that. I had just had enough.

You recently said that you hired out a five-a-side pitch just for yourself. Didn’t that feel a little bit weird?
Andrew Smith, Hereford

Yes it did feel a bit weird doing it, but three or four months ago I just fancied a kickabout. All my mates were at work so I went down there for an hour – it’s amazing what you can do on your own! I was still practising away with my right foot and I have retired now – so I’m not sure what the practising was for. But I guess it’s similar to golfers going off to the driving range and hitting balls.

Do you see yourself coaching in the League of Ireland one day?
‘The Final Third’, via Twitter

I’ve been doing work with the Republic of Ireland Under-15s and I was with Shamrock U16s

Possibly. I’ve been having my UEFA A licence assessment and I also need to get my Pro badge, although I am still finding my feet about what I want to do with my life. I’ve been doing work with the Republic of Ireland Under-15s and I was with Shamrock U16s. Now I’m with their first team, so we’ll see where it all goes.

How would you compare the Chelsea team now to the one you played in?
Brian Pearson, London

I would have to go with my one, being biased! Antonio Conte has transformed the team, so I’m not sure what went on with Jose during last season. Mourinho going to Manchester United has helped to reignite my love for United, I used to support them as a kid, but when I went to Chelsea I stopped. [FFT: Do you think he will win the league title with United one day?] It's harder than ever. There are six teams all vying for top spot, but Jose guarantees you trophies. It will be tough but I’d hang my hat on him, yes.

Are you turning into Kim Kardashian? You said it was a retirement worry...
Eddie O’Connell, Dundalk

[Laughs] I don’t know! People retire and they’re on red carpets and going to lots of openings, but I keep my head down. I live out in the hills with my wife and kids and the only time you see me is on Irish TV doing punditry. That’s given me something to focus on. It’s the hardest thing I’ve done by a mile – the pressure of it – but I quite like it in a strange way.

Are you really the owner of Duff Beer, Homer Simpson’s favourite tipple?
Graham Green, via Twitter

A few people have bought me the memorabilia over the years but it’s nothing to do with me! Someone did buy me a beer, but I didn’t try it – no chance. Any marketing opportunities? No, Homer hasn’t called me up yet…

This feature originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!

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