DARREN Dods thought about retiring last summer. Now the former Hibs, Falkirk, Dundee United and Inverness defender is closing in on the chance to play in the Championship as a 40-year-old with Forfar Athletic next season.
The veteran, who celebrates his 40th birthday early next month, helped the Station Park side secure a 3-1 home win over Alloa Athletic in the first leg of the Championship play-off final on Wednesday. If they can avoid losing by two clear goals in Sunday’s second leg at the Indodrill Stadium, the Angus minnows will be playing in the second tier of Scottish football next term for the first time since the 1991/92 campaign.
“It would be one of the biggest things I’ve done in my career if I can help get Forfar into the second tier at my age,” said Dods. “When you’re young, you always think you’ll get another chance to get into Europe or play in a cup final but I’m at an age where I don’t know what’s round the corner.
“This could be my last chance to get promotion. I was going to retire at the start of the season but it’s gone well so I feel like the old legs have still got another season left in them.”
Dods is not the only old head in his side. Remarkably, seven of Dick Campbell’s starting XI on Wednesday were 31 or older. “The manager’s shown faith in a lot of us older boys,” added Dods. “The way football’s going these days, you’re considered to be getting old at 26, never mind 36. But when you’re out on the pitch it’s just 11 v 11 – as a team we don’t seem to be showing our age.
“It’s only when you look at the birth certificates of some of the other players and they were born in 1997 or 98 – that’s when you start getting worried! There’s a few younger boys in the team who keep you fresh and give the team a bit of pace.”
One of those younger boys, teenager Michael Travis, scored a stoppage-time third for Forfar which gave them a two-goal lead to take to the Indodrill Stadium on Sunday.
“It was massive to get the late goal and give ourselves a two-goal cushion for the second leg because it will be difficult going down there and playing on their astroturf pitch, which is different to ours,” added Dods.
“We’re only halfway there. We’ve seen before how quickly these play-offs can turn around. If they get an early goal, the whole thing changes. There’s still 90 minutes to go – it’s still wide open. They showed in spells in the first leg that they’re a good side and they’ll come at us on Sunday.
“It will be massive if we can go up because we’re the underdogs and we’ve not been in the second tier for 24 years. I was still at school back then so it shows how long it’s been and how big an achievement it would be.
“The manager came in when we were in the bottom tier and he’s just worked away and made us better and better each year. Alloa are a similar-sized club to ourselves who have managed to get in the Championship and stay there for a couple of seasons. We want to do that ourselves.”