Tuesday 5th November 2019
STEFAN McCLUSKEY is a player whose workrate shines through whenever he is on the pitch.
But there’s a side to his commitment to Dumbarton’s cause that even his manager didn’t know until recently.
The forward has been playing through the pain barrier for most of the season, battling sciatica in his leg.
It was a battle he tried to take on by himself until only last week, when he had talks to make Jim Duffy aware of the situation.
Stefan has now dealt with the problem sufficiently to play 90 minutes on Saturday against Airdrieonians.
It didn’t work out as Dumbarton lost 3-1, with mistakes leading to goals for the Diamonds in a match between the sides who went into it in joint fourth place.
Stefan, who is playing under Duffy for their third club together, admitted to disappointment, but came away reasonably pleased with his own performance.
Speaking to www.dumbartonfootballclub.com, Stefan said: “I had to go in and speak to the manager last week. I’ve kept it to myself, but I’ve had a bit of sciatica coming down the left side of my leg.
“It’s been giving me a lot of problems since about the second game of the season but I’ve kept it to myself, even in training.
“I’ve done what I’ve been able to do but I’ve seen a few physios and I’ve started doing yoga. It’s all helping me but every time I moved in training I was in pain.
“The gaffer was surprised that I hadn’t spoken to him earlier but I thought I did OK on Saturday when I returned to the team.
“I had a chance that I probably should have scored with. We created a few chances but couldn’t score again and it’s important we get back on track.
“The 15-20 minute spell killed us, and conceding a goal right from the kick-off as well. The gaffer told us to get the ball out to the channels, as he does every game, but even though we had the chance to do that we didn’t and lost the first goal.
“Because of the spell that they had, Airdrie deserved to win and we deserved what we got. You can’t defend like that and expect to win a game.
“We got ourselves back in the game, although I don’t know if Reghan meant it or not. Our defending wasn’t good enough and that was it basically.”
Stefan has returned to senior football this season after a spell in the juniors with Pollok, and it is a return he has been anxious to make.
He has played under Duffy at Clyde and Morton, the latter of which saw the two win the League One championship in season 2014/15.
The idea of Sons matching that achievement this season may seem unlikely to some, but despite Saturday’s defeat, they remain fairly well placed to compete to do so.
With a double header at home to East Fife and Falkirk coming next, Stefan is hopeful that can be the start of a consistent sequence of results – and who knows where that could lead to?
He added: “It’s been brilliant getting back into senior football. I did miss it.
“I missed the atmosphere and looking forward to a Saturday. It’s not the same in junior football as the way it is at senior level, although juniors are competitive.
“You want to play against good teams – there are a lot of those in League One and we are a good team ourselves. It’s been great and I can’t thank the gaffer enough.
“If somebody said we’d be only five points off the top of the league a third of the way through the season, we’d have taken that 100 per cent.
“Only a few of the boys have spoken about it but the way we started the league, we looked weak and didn’t have a lot of options.
“The gaffer has now brought more options in and we look a lot stronger now.
“We need to start taking more points at home. The gaffer has discussed this with us – your home form sums up your season in my opinion.
“We’ve done well in the last few home games and now we have to keep that going, and be more dominant.
“Not many teams are consistent – many are up and down. If we can go on a five or six-game winning run, who knows where that could take us.
“Saturday was a bit of a blip and had we won, we’d have had a chance to go top this week. But if we can generate results consistently we will be up there.
“Our objective is the play-offs, but the league is there to be won. However, we need to find consistency first.”