Scoring goals still gives Derek Riordan ‘a thrill’
Derek Riordan may have attracted plenty of comment, both positive and negative, throughout his career. However, he has adapted to life as a part-time player with East Fife with such good grace that no accusations of being an out-of-touch, pampered footballer can be brought.
Two periods of service to Hibs came either side of playing for Celtic, with the now 32-year-old joining Chinese side Shaanxi Chan-Ba in 2011 before turning out for St Johnstone and Bristol Rovers.
Riordan, capped three times by Scotland, spent a year out of the game before joining Alloa last February, then an injury halted hopes of a permanent deal. A contract with Brechin City was also turned down as Hibs are the only club Riordan would put a jersey on for free of charge.
The chance of a deal at Livingston ended last month and rather than sit and become further distanced from the game he agreed to a request by the Fifers’ player/manager Gary Naysmith to join him.
The change in Riordan’s career was emphasised quickly as he explained: “Going to Elgin on a Tuesday night was a first and it was coldest I have been in a game since I played boys’ club football. It was quite a trek as we set off at 1 o’clock and did not get home until two in the morning, but it is good to be back involved and we won 5-3.”
After that trek, Riordan was on more familiar ground as he travelled to Hampden to face Queen’s Park. However, not everything was quite the same.
“It was a bit strange as when I had played there before, I arrived on a coach that goes down the ramp and under the main stand,” said Riordan before adding: “I was not sure where to go and had to ask at the reception. It was played out in front of 500 people and when you compare that to my last game there, which was a cup final with Celtic, it was all very different.”
There is, however, no hint of complaint as Riordan added: “Gary and all the players have been great with me. I have scored a couple of goals and that still gives me a thrill.
“The first I scored against Annan, when I got in front of their defender and flicked the ball home, took me right back to my Hibs days.”
Riordan’s desire to get playing again was not influenced by wanting to help an old pal out as he explained: “Gary and I do not think that we ever played against each other and I cannot remember ever coming that far away from the left wing to meet him on the other side.
“I was nervous about playing again but no more so than anyone else gets. I did not train with East Fife until last week so I am getting to know their names better now.”
There was a good reason that Riordan was not training, as he became a dad just hours after making his debut against East Stirling and the Bayview club are trying to capture baby Rio’s affections by handing over a club hat and blanket in their gold and black colours for the youngster.
The lack of training was not too great a hardship as Riordan was in decent shape as he explained: “People talk about me being away from football for a long time but it is not strictly true. I went to Alloa and injured my ankle in my second game there. That injury ruled me out from February to May, but Barry Smith wanted to keep me involved so he had some experience about.
“I went and sat on the bench every week even though I could not play.”
After playing in the top two divisions Riordan dipped his toe in the water of League 1 last autumn at Glebe Park as he explained: “I went into Brechin and played a couple of games but they did not offer me a salary. They offered me a deal for expenses only. I did not want to play for nothing although if Hibs asked me I would do it.
“I then joined Livingston and trained with them for seven weeks and Mark Burchill wanted to bring me in. Unfortunately a deal could not be secured for internal reasons. I couldn’t keep holding out and I wanted to play so East Fife and League 2 it is.”
For a player who has often been the centre of attention for the wrong reasons he impressed at Alloa despite a lack of games and their former boss Smith gave a glowing reference when Naysmith looked to bring Riordan in. Riordan finished by saying: “It has been worthwhile so far as I have scored my 100th league goal and now played in all four divisions.
“I want to make the most of it and help Gary, the boys and myself.
“It is a shop window and if East Fife can make the play-offs it becomes a bigger shop window and everyone will be happy.”