Friday 24th January 2020

”IT’S made me realise that football isn’t forever.”

Sam Wardrop has spent most of the last year swapping the training pitch for the study desk. He’s traded learning football skills for boosting his knowledge of the legal world.

And all being well, his football kit will be replaced by a gown and mortar board – just for a day, mind.

Dumbarton’s new(ish) loan signing is combining his football career with a law degree from the Open University.

Until recently, though, his studies have had more of his time than he’d have liked.

A knee injury not only put paid to a proposed loan move to Sons a year ago – it ruled him out for most of 2019.

But if good things come to those who wait then Sam’s return to Dumbarton, to whom he was on loan from Celtic in season 2017/18, should bear serious fruit.

A few reserve games for Dundee United – now his parent club – have got him ready for the rigours of football again.

And the long wait for a first team fixture is set to be over tomorrow when Sons travel to face Peterhead.

The combination of efforts on and off the pitch, though, has taught Sam a few valuable things while he’s recovered from his injury.

Speaking to www.dumbartonfootballclub.com, Sam said: “I’m four years deep into the degree out of six. I’m too far into it and can’t pull out of it now!

“I was always been encouraged to focus on my school work when I was younger, as well as my football. My parents have been a big influence on me.

“When I went into full-time football at 16, I realised that you get a lot of spare time in the afternoons, so I’ve got something to fill my time with.

“The injury has also made me realise that football isn’t forever, so it’s made it all worthwhile doing the degree. You don’t know when you will have to stop playing and I’m really glad I’ve been doing it on the back burner.

“It’s good to know I’ve got a backup option in case I need it.

“It’s not been nice with the injury but it’s one of those things where you need to get on with it. You can’t just get down with it or you don’t get anywhere.

“I’ve just worked as hard as I can and that’s what got me through it – improving my knee and getting back into playing again.

“It’s been a long 12 months but I feel fitter and stronger and can’t wait to put all my hard work into playing for Dumbarton.

“It was really good to get back out on to the pitch. I had to get through a few reserve games to tick the last couple of boxes before I was able to get out on loan.

“Those games went really well and I felt really fit. But I don’t want to be playing those kind of games for the rest of the season – I want to be playing first-team football.”

That opportunity is set to come his way again, starting with tomorrow’s trip to Balmoor Stadium.

Although injury ruled him out of what is now the Tunnocks Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup final against Inverness CT in 2018, Sam’s first loan spell with Sons was a hit.

The Highland side can certainly back that up. To date, he and Dimitris Froxylias are the only Sons players to score in victory against them, doing so in a 2-1 win in September 2017.

Sam got the winner that day, and he hopes that more such moments can follow over the remaining 16 games (at present) of the season.

He added: “I’m delighted, to be honest. When I first heard it was possible I just said I wanted it to happen, because I loved my time here the first time.

“I played some good football and I wanted to repeat that.

“Personally I want to play as many games as I can, play well and stay injury free. That may be easier to say than to do but I feel I’m in a good position health-wise.

“I’ll aim to get as much out of the remaining games of the season as I can, as my contract with Dundee United expires at the end of the season and I want to show what I am capable of. I can put myself in a good position.

“In terms of the team, we have a good group and the league is quite competitive. I think we can do really well with the players we have and I can’t wait for the first game tomorrow.

“Peterhead are below us in the league but it’s very tight. I’ve never played against them before so I’m quite looking forward to it.

“At training last night, all the boys looked really good. They played some really good stuff and did really well at Aberdeen last week.

“I know a good few of them – Stuart Carswell and Kyle Hutton from when I was last year, and Rico Quitongo as well from playing against him.

“I’ve actually given him a hard time, as he’s a left back and I’m a right back. He’s probably had nightmares about me!

“I know PJ Crossan as well from our time at Celtic together, and I’m looking forward to linking up with everybody.”

Andy Galloway

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