The Ireland legend now coaches the Shamrock Rovers U-15 team having retired from playing in 2015.
Damien Duff’s twenty year career has come full circle, as the Dubliner becomes reacquainted with the game from a teenager’s perspective. Duff played for the Republic of Ireland national under-19 football team in the 1997 UEFA European U-18 Football Championship finals, and made his senior debut the following year.
Such pressure from a young age helped make him into the player that won two Premier League trophies with Chelsea, and that tough approach is something he’s looking to rekindle in the Rovers youth.
“I’m probably too tough on them, they probably hate me but that’s the way I was brought up with the underage team and at Blackburn so that’s how I’m doing it,” Duff admitted via The Irish Independent.
“I was always told how shit I was or I needed to do something better. We’re playing catch-up with the rest of Europe. I was at PSV a couple of weeks ago and their U-15s are doing six sessions a week and our clubs here do two or three, so I don’t know how you expect to compete with them at a senior level when you’re thousands of hours behind.”
The former winger is combating this gulf in preparation by having his team perform training sessions at 6:30am. However, getting teenagers to begrudgingly forego their lie-ins isn’t Duff’s biggest issue as an underage coach.
The ever-present spectre of pushy parents has come to the fore, and the 38-year-old didn’t hold back in expressing his thoughts on the inconvenience.
“It’s a big job, just clipping games, looking forward to a game on Saturday, clipping footage of games you’ve just played and then dealing with pain in the arse parents,” Duff lamented.
“I don’t think it (interfering parents) helps kids, it gives them maybe a false sense. A few have tried, ‘My little Johnny is this or that’ but I try to treat them like adults. I bring them back down to earth. I put on adult sessions that I got in the Premier League. That’s the way I treat them; the way Brian (Kerr) treated me.”
It’s always good to learn from someone who performed at the highest level, but these youngsters seem doubly fortunate that Duff appears to have the right perspective and their best interests at heart.