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Dublin: 12°C Wednesday 30 September 2020

'He'd be training with extra clothes to lose weight... He did the ugly jobs as a footballer'

Former League of Ireland stars Glen Crowe and Seán Prunty speak to The42 about playing with Dundalk manager Vinny Perth.

DURING HIS TIME at Longford Town, Seán Prunty never thought that his team-mate Vinny Perth would be interested in the management life.

vinny-perth-is-congratulated-by-sean-prunty-342004 Sean Prunty and Vinny Perth in action for Longford Town. Source: INPHO

It wasn’t that he felt the Dubliner was ill-equipped for the task, it was merely something he observed in the body language. Perth had a day job away from the football field, and from the outside, that appeared to be a better fit for him.

And yet, the skills were there in his locker, skills that would one day enable him to guide League of Ireland kingpins Dundalk to a fifth league crown in six seasons.

Prunty and Perth played pivotal roles in leading Longford Town to back-to-back FAI Cup triumphs across the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

During that golden spell under Alan Mathews, they also helped deliver a League Cup title.

The pair were fan-favourites and Prunty always remembers the midfield general as someone who used his voice the correct way to get the best out of those around him.

“He was one of these guys [that] even if you weren’t playing well,” he tells The42, ”he’d come over and say ‘just do the simple things right and you’ll get your confidence going’.

“He wasn’t a baller or a shouter on the pitch but he was always very encouraging rather than ball or shout at you.

“Vinny was the type of guy who would speak up if there was an issue to be brought to a manager by the players. Alan Mathews would have used him an awful lot and Vinny would have been very instrumental when we won the FAI Cups.

He was vocal for the right reasons. I can’t remember Vinny shouting just for the sake of shouting. There was always a message behind it.”

Glen Crowe scored 159 goals throughout his League of Ireland career, the seventh highest on the all-time goalscorer list.

glen-crowe-celebrates-scoring Glen Crowe after scoring a goal for Bohemians in the 2008 FAI Cup final. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

He made history in 2002 when he became the first League of Ireland player in 16 years to get an international call-up and feature in a friendly match for the Republic of Ireland against Greece.

In short, he’s one of the greatest players our domestic league has ever produced.

Much of his time in the top flight crossed over with Perth’s career but they never played together. As they passed through different clubs, they often came up against each other on the pitch.

Like many other rivalries, those dealings weren’t always savoury, but they learned to settle their differences over time.

“I would have played against him when he was at [Shamrock] Rovers, Dundalk and Longford Town,” Crowe begins.

I have to say I didn’t particularly like him, playing against him. He was just one of those people who went out and kicked people. He was effective in what he did.

“I got to know him off the pitch through a friend of ours, Paul McNally, who would have played with him at Longford and at Bohs with me.

It was just a bit of niggling and that’s the type of player he was, he got stuck in. He rolled the sleeves up, worked hard and every now and then, he’d leave the foot in.

But listen,” he laughs, “everyone does it from time to time in football. There was never any malice in it.”

Prunty can identify with that gritty element in Perth’s game but remembers it slightly differently. 

richie-baker-and-vinny-perth-1112003 Perth putting in a tackle for Longford Town. Source: INPHO

He recalls Perth as a player who gave all he could. Even on the nights when things didn’t click for him, he continued to try. He wasn’t blessed with flashy skills but his performances were loaded with endeavor, and it won the crowd’s approval every time.

I remember pre-season games where Vinny would know that he’d be training with extra clothes on to lose a bit of weight,” says Prunty looking back.

“He’d be going doing an extra bit of running.

“He was dedicated and he didn’t always get the plaudits that he probably deserved when he was playing.

But one of the things was when he was playing, he did his job. Vinny was able to screen the midfield. He did the ugly jobs as a footballer and the fans loved that.

“Vinny probably wouldn’t have been the most skillful player but he definitely gave 100% and that’s what any fan wants. You could be the best footballer in the league but unless you apply yourself and do all the dirty work, fans aren’t going to warm to you.

“There’s no point in you playing one good game whereas you always knew Vinny would be a seven or eight out of 10 every week. Even if wasn’t playing well, he would have always given 100%.”

longford-fans-24102004 Longford Town fans loved Perth for the effort he gave in the shirt. Source: INPHO

After his time at Longford Town, Perth enjoyed stints at St Patrick’s Athletic, Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk before retiring in 2008 and slotting straight into management.

Prunty’s career diverged onto a different path, one that would lead him to prematurely retire from football due to a heart condition.

As it turned out, Perth’s first managerial gig was back at his old stomping ground in Longford Town. Perth joined the club as a player in 1998 and was then manager Stephen Kenny’s first signing.

It was almost fitting that Perth would return to Longford Town to begin the management chapter of his life, considering that he would be reunited with Kenny at Dundalk years later.

After becoming assistant manager for a time, Perth took over as the Longford Town caretaker boss from Aaron Callaghan in 2008 at a time when the club was struggling.

But despite the difficulties, the team survived relegation.

From there, Perth went on to take charge of Leinster Senior League side Malahide United, where he crossed paths with Crowe again.

Crowe, who was approaching the final strides of his playing career, had been playing with Sporting Fingal before linking up with Mals.

glen-crowe-celebrates-after-scoring-his-sides-first-goal Crowe finished up in the LOI with Sporting Fingal before joining Malahide United. Source: James Crombie

“When I finished with Fingal in 2010, I got a call off him,” he explains about Perth’s invitation to play for the team.

“It was a bit of a trek getting across from Lucan and at this stage, I’d gone from disliking him to liking him so it was a pretty easy decision.

“It was brilliant. The people at the club were lovely. The pitch we played on was as good if not better than a lot of League of Ireland pitches. So it was very easy to settle in.

“Most of them [players] were local Malahide lads and they were invested in the club so they did things the right way. They turned up and worked hard so it was easy for me to go in and follow along them lines.”

Dealing with different personalities and understanding how best to motivate players is a central part of any manger’s job.

Perth’s time at Longford Town showed that he was rich in this quality, and he brought it into the Malahide dressing room too.

“He treated everyone the same but if someone needed a bollicking and he knew they wouldn’t react well to it,” says Crowe, “he’d probably have a quiet word with them to get the best out of them.

“He was very good even from that stage, and he was only starting out in management. He tailored to every individual but at the same time, he demanded the same high standards off everybody. The way he went about that was different.”

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Both Perth and Crowe left Malahide United around the beginning of 2013 having won a Division 1 title together.

Crowe went back to his home club St Mochta’s to finish out his playing days while Perth returned to the League of Ireland to serve as assistant coach for Stephen Kenny at Dundalk.

stephen-kenny-and-vinny-perth-celebrate-with-the-irish-daily-mail-fai-cup Perth and Kenny after Dundalk won the FAI Cup in 2018. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

And their time together on the sideline was certainly productive. With Kenny in charge from the end of 2012, Dundalk won four Premier Division league titles and two cup doubles in six seasons.

He stepped down as manager in 2018 to become the new Republic of Ireland U21 boss.

Dundalk’s future looked uncertain as Perth was handed the reigns and the early stages of their 2019 season offered a bleak outlook as they fell 13 points behind Shamrock Rovers at the top of the table.

Their Europa League campaign came to a crashing end as well after a 4-1 aggregate defeat to Slovan Bratislava halted their chase to reach the competition’s play-off round.

But with Perth at the helm, they managed to turn things around. They won the league cup final after a penalty shootout against Derry City, and earlier this week, they defeated Shamrock Rovers to retain their Premier Division honours.

Taking on the Dundalk job presented a huge challenge for Perth at the outset, but Crowe knew from the Malahide days that he had the mettle for this.

“It can be a big upheaval but I think the main thing that Vinny’s done is that he didn’t go in and try to change the way the club is run or the way the team plays.

“Obviously a big part of that is the way he set them up alongside Stephen so I think the important thing was not to go in and make wholesale changes. There was nothing broken so there was nothing to fix.

vinny-perth-celebrates-winning-the-league Perth salutes the Dundalk fans after winning the league on Monday night. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“I think they always had the belief from winning the league last year, even after going 13 points behind. It might have been different if it hadn’t been Vinny [in charge]. They probably would have made wholesale changes but Vinny knew to keep the consistency going.”

Prunty might not have envisaged a career in management for Perth when they soldiered together at Longford Town, but he was proud to see his friend reach the pinnacle with Dundalk on Monday night.

As surprises go, this was one he was happy to receive as the Lilywhites prepare for an FAI Cup semi-final against Sligo Rovers this Sunday. The hunt for the treble is on.

“There was a lot of pressure on Vinny to do well, especially after taking over from Stephen Kenny,” says Prunty.

“He’s done a fantastic job in taking over from where Stephen Kenny left off. They were big boots to fill and he’s done it by winning the League Cup, retaining the League and possibly pushing on to win the FAI Cup final.

“What he’s done and what he’s achieved has been absolutely fantastic. I watched his interview and you could see he was high as a kite. I was absolutely delighted for him because he gave his all as a player.” 

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