Friday 12th January 2018
THE surroundings are the same. But the boy is now a man.
Fifteen years ago, he came to Dumbarton aged 20, with five games as a substitute in the SPL to his name.
All Iain Russell wanted was to show he could hack it upfront at senior level.
There are defenders without number, at various levels in Scotland, who will tell you he’s done exactly that.
Whichever club he’s played for, Iain Russell’s very presence usually means goals. Even when it doesn’t, it isn’t for the want of trying by the men trying to stop him.
For that very reason, he comes back to the YOUR Radio 103FM Stadium 15 years older – but no less welcome.
With nearly 200 career goals to his name, he is an excellent re-addition. Even though his senior career was thought to have come to a close at the end of last season.
Speaking to www.dumbartonfootballclub.com, Iain said: “It was work and family commitments that made me decide to retire at the end of last season. I have a young family and you make these decisions at the time.
“I had another year left at Airdrie, but they were going to be full-time this season and between that and my work, it was too much.
“I had options to go back part-time, but I made the decision to come away from football. I’ve really missed it during the first half of this season.
“I’ve been training the odd day with Airdrie to keep me ticking over, and I ran the Glasgow 10k in October.
“I’ve kept as fit as possible and I’ve felt good in training with Dumbarton. It might take me a week or two to get up to speed, but I’ll be playing on excitement and adrenalin from the start.
“I know a lot of the players already from having played with and against them. I’ve known Andy Dowie all my career and I’ve played alongside Craig Barr for Livingston, and Kyle Hutton for Queen of the South and Airdrie.
“All the players have been very good. It’s a tight-knit squad and Stevie has done well to get such a group of players and personalities together.
“There are a lot of good players in there, and they are ambitious. They want to stay in this league and it’s exciting times.
“It’s going to be tough, but Dumbarton have survived for the last five seasons. Every other team except Brechin is full-time, and you don’t know what way Falkirk are going to go.
“But it’s always very tight and I’ll do everything I can to help Dumbarton do it again.”
As well as initially making his name with Sons, Iain has other reasons to keep the club close to his heart.
His parents still live locally – and with the club’s rise to it’s current position, he’s admired from afar.
He’s willing to test the theory that you should never go back.
He said: “I’m excited to get back. I’d been looking to return to football and had a chat with Stevie Aitken to see if there was any interest.
“When he said he’d like to bring me here I was absolutely delighted. It’s great for me to be coming back into the Championship and I can’t wait to get started against St Mirren tomorrow.
“Dumbarton are recognised as the best part-time team in Scotland. They’re well-run and have an ambitious manager who is the best man for the job.
“Having played for Dumbarton before, and scored my first senior goal there, there was a bit of sentiment.
“It was where my senior career really got started, but wherever it is, it’s a nice feeling to come back.”
Iain is now set to play his first senior game since May tomorrow when Championship leaders St Mirren visit the YOUR Radio 103FM Stadium.
By his own admission, it’s going to be difficult, but it’s the sort of occasion he’s risen to in a Dumbarton shirt before.
Just ask the Morton side of season 2003/04, who came to Dumbarton at the turn of the year having lost only once. One goal from Iain later, they had sustained a second defeat.
The striker told the club website: “It’s the toughest game you could pick for me to get back into it! The stadium will probably be full and it’s a great game to be involved in.
“St Mirren are a good side and they’ve shown why they are top of the league. They’re on a good run and it’s going to be difficult.
“But every game is hard. I was at the Dunfermline game last week and Dumbarton’s determination was evident.
“They were never out of the game and hopefully they can be in it right through tomorrow and get something out of it.”
And on all those goals he’s scored against Dumbarton – 14 to be exact?
He added: “I’d rather score for Dumbarton than against them!
“I’ve not been keeping count, but I remember a few down at Dumbarton.
“Hopefully I’ll get the chances to score now I’m back there. All my career I’ve played to score goals and I’d love nothing more than to do that in a Sons jersey again.”
© Fullarton Photos 2018