Morton midfielder Darren Young is hoping to return to full fitness next week after enduring one of the most frustrating periods of his 16 year career. Young had eased himself into being a regular start at Morton after rarely featuring in a two year spell at Dundee however, he picked up an achilles injury in a bounce game with Rangers that has seen him still to kick a ball in 2011.
Young said: “I was back playing regularly, really enjoying myself and then got hurt in a bounce game. I am back running now and am hoping that I will be back in full training next week.
“There is a lot to look forward to here as we look to climb the table and also the Scottish Cup tie up at Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
“The boys did really well against Airdrie in the replay in midweek and took their chances well to get us through to the Inverness game so I cannot wait to be involved again.”
Whilst Young is feeling frustrated just now, the playing of The Co-operative Insurance Cup Semi-Finals this weekend also unearths a frustration in the 32-year-old. Back in 2006, Young scored the winning goal from the penalty spot as Dunfermline Athletic defeated Livingston 1-0 to reach Hampden for a CIS Insurance Cup Final against Celtic however, come the March showdown date, Young did not play.
He said: “I broke a metatarsal bone and that meant I missed out. I went from a real high to a real low really quickly.”
Ironically, it was at one of this weekend’s four Co-operative Insurance Cup Semi-Finalists that Young began his career, as he was an Aberdeen player from a young age with the midfielder making his debut as a 17-year-old against Heart of Midlothian in 1996.
Young recalls: “Roy Aitken was the Manager that started my career and not long after I made my debut, I scored in the UEFA Cup against Barry Town. This was quite a strange one as I was thinking to myself that only a year previously, I was at school and now I was scoring in Europe.”
Aitken left and Alex Miller came in however, a knee injury stalled Young’s progress as he required a couple of operations before he could finally establish himself in the Aberdeen first team.
Under Danish boss Ebbe Skovdahl, Young put his injury problems behind him and was made captain of the Pittodrie side aged just 22.
Looking back, Young now realises the full honour he was given as he explained: “I had been the captain at boys club football and then with the Aberdeen youth team so it seemed a logical progression for me. It felt like an honour but I did not realise fully at the time just how big an honour it was.”
Young left Aberdeen in 2003, with younger brother Derek, who had followed his footsteps into the Pittodrie first team, joining him in a move to Dunfermline Athletic. Jimmy Calderwood recruited the siblings however, 12 months later, Calderwood made the journey in the opposite direction leaving the Pars just as they started their run of four Cup Finals in five years.
The first Cup Final was in May 2004, when Dunfermline lost 3-1 to Celtic in a Scottish Cup Final with the second being The CIS Insurance Cup where Young was forced out through injury and again Celtic came out on top, this time by a 3-0 scoreline.
May 2007 saw a chance for revenge as Dunfermline took on Celtic again in the Scottish Cup Final and whilst there was an individual honour for Young, there was no winners’ medal as he explained.
“I was awarded the Man-of-the-Match in that Cup Final but we lost again this time to a late goal from Jean-Joel Perrier Doumbe.”
The cup runs had masked a slide down the SPL table by the East End Park side and they were relegated in the same month that they played in the Scottish Cup Final. Young soon found himself playing in another Cup Final all the same as Stephen Kenny’s side reached the 2007/08 Challenge Cup Final against St. Johnstone at Dens Park.
The Perth side won 3-2 to add to Young’s Cup Final woes and he left Dunfermline after five seasons to join Dundee in 2008. Alex Rae took him to Tayside however, his replacement Jocky Scott would leave Young disappointed as he rarely played him.
Young said: “I would not be involved and would go and speak to Jocky. He would tell me I was doing well in training and to bide my time. A few weeks would pass and I was still not involved so I would speak to him again but not much changed.
“I asked to go out on loan but he would not send me out so it was a disappointing spell there.”
One game Young did feature in was another Semi-Final as he played in the 3-0 ALBA Challenge Cup win over Annan Athletic at Dens Park.
Young said: “I have now played in six Semi-Finals and never lost one. I drew one with Dunfermline against Inverness Caledonian Thistle but we won the replay 3-1 at Pittodrie. Ironically, Barry Nicholson, Craig Brewster and I all scored that night and we all have connections at Aberdeen now as well.”
The epic 3-2 ALBA Challenge Cup Final win for Dundee over Inverness Caledonian Thistle did not feature Young and he was one of 16 players released last summer and a move back to the SPL with Hamilton Academical never materialised.
Young said: “I played in a pre-season friendly against Queen’s Park and felt I did okay in what was a great game. It was 2-2 when I went off and finished 5-4 but I was never offered anything.
“It was good to get a game and do some pre-season work but disappointing not to be offered a contract.”
For the first time in his playing career, Young started a season without a club and a three game trial period at Queen of the South ended after two games when an injury was sustained.
A move to First Division rivals Morton also involved a trial period and once that was negotiated successfully, a deal was agreed until the New Year. Playing regularly had been benefiting the midfielder and he quickly agreed to stay on until the end of the season.
Young said: “I was delighted to be back playing every week because when you are out for a while, your match fitness goes. You can be physically fit but not match fit and getting that is hard when you are not playing.
“I am loving being at Morton and after not really getting a chance at Dundee, I am pleased to have a Manager that is playing me.
“There are a good bunch of boys here although it is the first club I have been at where you have to wash your own kit but I am not minding that at all.”
A season that began with a search for a new club could end highly with Young saying, “Allan Moore has everyone in his squad really pulling together. Full-time management was new to him at the start of the season but we have shown with our recent fightbacks against Airdrie and Raith Rovers that we have a good spirit.
“I am sure we will climb the table higher and I will be back soon to play my part.
“Confidence is building at Cappielow and we do not fear anyone in this division. Dundee beat us 1-0 with their only shot at goal which was a penalty and we had the game won against Ross County until they scored deep and I mean really deep into injury time.
“Scoring five against Airdrie was important as it will give the guys that play up front a real boost.”
Young also revealed that Aberdeen boss Craig Brown was calling brother Derek by the wrong name during his first few weeks at Pittodrie and came up with a solution after being corrected by Young’s sibling.
The former Dons’ captain said: “Craig kept on calling Derek by my name and it was Darren this and Darren that. It was a bit of a laugh in the Aberdeen dressing room however, he now just calls him ‘Youngie’.
“It has been great to see Derek becoming a regular there again after he suffered a spell under Mark McGhee like I had at Dundee under Jocky Scott, when you were told you were doing great but never got a game.
“I talk to my brother every other day and as I will be watching Morton take on Ross County this weekend, I won’t get to Hampden. If he gets through to The Co-operative Insurance Cup Final, I will go to that.”
As well as trying to lift Morton to a higher position in the League table, Young is also now thinking about the future and is starting out with his first steps in coaching. He has enrolled in his first coaching qualifications however, for a man that has scored the winning penalty in a League Cup Semi-Final, he does not have the ice cool nerves that you would imagine.
Young said: “The thought of standing up and getting players to do what you ask makes me a tad nervous. Give me a penalty kick for a Cup Final place any time.”