Then & now Dave Langan, former football international

 

THE IRISH SOCCER team may be running their hearts out for their country in Euro 2012, but how many of them would run through a wall for Ireland? One man would have done just that, but he never got a chance to prove it. Despite having won 26 caps for Ireland, and having powered his team through the qualifiers, Dave Langan was unceremoniously dropped from the Euro ’88 squad by Jack Charlton.

Langan had been plagued by knee injuries throughout his career, but being out of Jack’s Army was the hardest blow of all.

It all began so brilliantly for the doughty young Dubliner. He played for Cherry Orchard as a youth, and signed up to Derby County in 1973 under the strict but fair tutelage of manager Brian Clough, whose number one rule was never give the ball away. Langan was Derby’s player of the year for two years running, and won his first cap for Ireland in 1978.

In 1980, when Ireland was entertaining Argentina at home in Lansdowne Road, Langan made his mark – by knocking the great Maradona to the ground.

But the game was beginning to take a serious toll on Langan’s knees. While playing for Birmingham City, who had paid a reported £350,000 for him, he suffered some severe injuries that kept him off the pitch for nearly two years. He got back on form and signed to Oxford United, winning the League Cup in 1987, and returned to play for Ireland. But when Jack Charlton dropped him from the Euro ’88 line-up, it put an end to his international career, and permanently soured relations with Charlton. “I don’t think I can ever forgive Jack for the way I was left out,” he recently told the Irish Post.

Langan’s career hobbled on for a few more years, with stints at Bournemouth and Peterborough United, but the damage to his knees was worse than he or his team coaches had realised, and he was forced to retire from the game in 1989. His medical problems were so severe that he was registered disabled, and fell on hard times. A benefit night was held in 1999 to help him get by – Paul McGrath was a guest of honour.

This year, Langan is hoping for a new lease of life, thanks to knee replacement surgery. He has undergone a painful procedure to replace his battered knee with a strong, flexible plastic one. He lives in Peterborough with his wife, Dawn. They have three children.

His autobiography, Running Through Walls, is due for publication in September. He’s currently writing a column for sportsnewsireland.com, where he’s been commenting on Euro 2012. He predicts an Irish win against Italy on Monday.Kevin Courtney

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