Thursday 3rd August 2017
SIXTEEN years on from perhaps his greatest moment, David Winnie had reached the other extreme.
May 1987 – aged 20, parading the Scottish Cup at Hampden Park after helping St Mirren beat Dundee United 3-2.
March 2003 – Scottish lower league football at its roughest and readiest.
Cowdenbeath’s Central Park for a Dumbarton game which was postponed a month earlier due to a frozen pitch. The temperature on the evening made it hard to imagine how the original date could have been any colder.
As if that wasn’t enough for the 218 diehards in the crowd, they also had to watch it through a blanket of fog which at one point made another return visit a distinct possibility.
And at the centre of it all, as Dumbarton manager, was David.
This game was originally going to take place off the back of two wins. Instead, Sons were winless in four and still reeling from Berwick Rangers’ injury time equaliser three days earlier.
Injuries denied them the services of two key players. Neil Duffy’s experience and calming influence was missing at the back, as was the trickery on the wing of Emeka Obidile, who when the sides last met was a trialist for Cowden.
But the job still had to be done in a vital game in the battle to avoid a return to the old Third Division.
David told www.dumbartonfootballclub.com as part of #sons24: “I can’t remember the exact position we were in, but I know it was a pretty precarious one and it was important to get something from Cowdenbeath.
“Going to Central Park, which was a tight, narrow ground, I knew there wasn’t going to be a lot of football played.
“Cowdenbeath were a scrappy type of team and we knew it was going to be a battle.
“I had a choice to make on whether to play Stephen Grindlay in goal. Knowing what I know now, I shouldn’t have.
“He had suffered a family bereavement just shortly before the game, which I didn’t know about at the time. If I had known, I’d have put John Wight in goal, because thinking back on it, it did affect Stephen.
“He hadn’t been his usual self before the game and I should have taken him out for his own sake, but I didn’t know what had happened.”
It was clear after 18 minutes that this was not going to be Dumbarton’s night.
A penalty was awarded to Cowdenbeath on the advice of the assistant referee on the other side of the pitch. The same assistant complained of blurred vision later in the evening.
A second goal for the Blue Brazil, and the dismissal of Tom Brown later, Sons were beaten 2-0 and were looking down a very long barrel.
And on a long, silent journey back across Scotland and home, David suspected something was in the air.
His fears were confirmed within a further three days. With seven games left of the season, the club gambled.
David said: “I think in football, you make your own luck. I’m not so sure about fate, but at the time, we didn’t deserve it because we had a disappointing evening.
“Looking back on it, I probably did have an inkling that something was going to happen, as the board were very hush-hush afterwards.
“They would usually have a word or two with me after the game, but nothing was said at all as we left the ground.
“I don’t even remember any of the board coming back on the bus with me, so that made me suspect that something was in the offing.
“And they made their decision. They were entitled to do that and I left the club.”
When a manager is removed from his position, it is suspected in some quarters that he may hope that the mission he started ends in failure.
But was David happy to see Dumbarton stay up?
“Oh God, aye.”
“If the team had gone down I would have been heartbroken, because there are a lot of good people at that club.
“Behind the scenes, there are a lot of people who work hard to keep the club going. They don’t do it for money, they do it for the love of the club.
“Those people are the lifeblood of clubs, and to see them go down, I would have taken it as a personal thing against me, and I’d have been heartbroken for those who work so hard.”
To date, Dumbarton are the only club David has managed in his own right. He had already come to the club having taken caretaker charge of KR Reykjavik in Iceland.
And in that respect, he doesn’t see his CV being added to.
He has now traded the dressing room for the courtroom. His biggest matches are legal ones.
Now living down south, in the hustle and bustle of London life, David is head of the sports law team with a leading firm in the capital.
And he regularly has first-hand sight of just how pricey the game down in England has got.
He continued: “After Dumbarton, I had a cold, hard look at my situation in terms of football.
“And I decided that in terms of coaching, I had had enough.
“I did do a bit of coaching with Rangers, but to be honest, I had become disillusioned with the game and wanted to go into another field.
“I had a lot of contacts in the game, a lot of them at the highest level, but the chances to make a living out of the game were becoming less and less in Scotland anyway.
“So I went back to university, my local one in Paisley, to study law, and got my degree from there.
“It was then a case of seeing what jobs were available for me, as I wanted to combine the sporting side with my legal knowledge.
“There aren’t that many jobs in Scotland in that area, so I started with a legal firm just outside London, where I qualified as a lawyer.
“Then I managed to get a post with one of the top law firms in the world on the sporting side, and that was a good start for me.
“I now head up the sports department at a law firm in Central London. It keeps me involved in the game – not with coaching or anything like that, but I am involved with player disputes and commercial contracts.
“I also work with buying and selling – the club market down here is enormous in comparison to Scotland.”
Despite all that, David’s interest in football has not waned altogether – including keeping an eye on events at his former club.
Dumbarton still has a place in his heart, and just occasionally, the playing boots do come back on, although for recreational purposes.
And his love of football is also being passed on to further generations of his family.
David added: “I have a young family now, and they take up most of my time.
“My local team is Arsenal, and I take my boy to watch them now and again. It’s a bit of a difference with Dumbarton!
“But I still follow the game in Scotland. The only football I play is the odd game of five-a-side. I’ve been asked to coach one or two times, but I don’t do it at all.
“I’ve watched Dumbarton’s progress with interest – not as often as I would like. If I don’t have access to the computer every day then there is no media coverage whatsoever down here.
“But I do look online for how they’re getting on, and I get the odd newspaper extract from Scotland.
“The present manager (Stevie Aitken) seems to have done a good job with them. It’s a major achievement to keep the club in the Championship as long as they’ve been there. I don’t think people realise the difference between part-time and full-time.
“It begins to tell after the turn of the year. The full-time clubs come into their own in terms of players and fitness, so to have maintained their position against a whole bunch of full-time sides who are Premiership sides in all but position is remarkable. It’s all credit to the club.”
Headline photo from Ronald Fletcher Baker website