Don Cowie – The Big VFTN Interview part two

For fans and spectators watching a penalty shoot-out, it’s sometimes so difficult to watch. So what is it like to step up, in that type of game? How, if you can put it into words, did you feel?

The only way I can describe it I think is that I was numb. I was literally numb. I just felt confident. I felt that we had played well, I had enjoyed the game, I had participated well and I felt confident. So as soon as the final whistle went, in my head I said to myself, ‘you’re taking a penalty.’ So I had decided where I was going to put it.

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There and then?!

Well I just thought, I’m going to take one. Malky walks over to the group and asks who is taking a penalty. I put my hand up straight away. I hadn’t taken many penalties in my career, but I just thought, no I’m taking one because I just felt that this may never happen again. You’re never going to be in a League Cup final against your heroes again, so from that sort of stage I was like I was taking one. However, running up to take the penalty, I could hardly feel my body!

90,000 people in the stadium, millions watching, you’re just like wow! I think if you were to see my celebration when the goal goes in, it’s just sheer relief, thinking ‘I’ve done my job!’ Let’s be honest, my job was made a wee bit easier because the first three people missed their penalties, so there wasn’t too much pressure!

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Following on from the League Cup defeat and that season, Cardiff went on to secure promotion and we were rebranded. The club spent a lot of money in the transfer market and as a result, you ended up playing less. What are your memories of that period?

Well, it was a difficult time in terms of off the field. It’s a big decision to change the strip, the colour, the badge, things like that. There’s a lot been said about that anyway so you don’t really need me to go in to too much detail. I can imagine it’s a difficult thing for a fan to comprehend and accept, but at the same time, Vincent Tan put an awful lot of money into the club and he thought that was the way of taking the club forward at the time.

We did manage to get to the play-offs the year before, but we were a bit light and I think that season I must have played 55 or so games, just because the squad was quite small. Going into that next season, we spent money. Nooney signed, Tommy Smith, Heidur Helguson, Nicky Maynard, Bellamy came back, so we signed real quality players. We had a great squad, so it’s only natural that there’s competition for places, but the one thing that really sticks out is that we had a tremendous dressing room.

When you’re in Cardiff, it’s quite a small area, for where everyone lived. The radius of where we lived, we were always close by and socialised a lot. Our wives socialised a lot, our kids and there’s no coincidence that we won the league that year because we were so closely knitted. If I remember rightly, I think our top goal scorer had maybe 8 goals, but we won the league quite comfortably, which just shows you how together we were as a team.

We were resilient and didn’t concede many goals. The team was based on a great back four and a great goalkeeper. We were just a unit, so together and driven to get us to the Premier League.

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You mention the togetherness of that team there and because we have a regular Kevin McNaughton column on the site, we asked if he asked if he had any questions. So here goes! His question was how many darts titles he had won in total, but then he answered his own question and said he won all of them.

You see, that’s the memories! We were footballers, but at the training ground we actually had a darts board and wouldn’t start training until half-ten, but it got to the stage where we were arriving at training at 9 o’clock and we weren’t leaving until 3 o’clock because we were just so together. We would play darts before and after training. There must’ve been about ten of us at times.

It even got to the stage where I bought everyone their own personalised flights and things like that for the darts because it just brought us together in each others company. Kev didn’t have it all his own way in the darts though. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good darts player, but honestly, there’s a few of us that could match him.

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You’ve mentioned your family quite a bit and as I understand, your wife, her sister and her husband all play football?!

Yep, that’s correct!

Wow, so there’s no escaping football in the Cowie household!

No definitely not! My wife played for Scotland. She’s a twin and her twin also played for Scotland. She’s married to an ex-professional footballer. So like you said, there’s no escaping football. We’re a very close knit family and support each other, so we know what goes with being a footballer. I’ve toured Britain with my family, but they’ve been fully behind me because they know what type of industry it is being a footballer and so it’s been really important to have their support.

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One final question. Do you have any plans yet for when you decide to stop playing football? Are you keen to remain invloved in the game, or are you keen to explore other, different avenues?

I think something players need to do more often is to start planning for what they want to do because it’s a short career and you need to be prepared for that time when you realise you can’t play forever. I’m quite fortunate myself. I’m 35, I’m feeling reasonably healthy and still playing and enjoying football. I think it’s been a massive part of my life and it’s not something I could do; stop playing football and then not be involved in football.

I’ve done my UEFA B and A license with the coaching, so it’s something that I would love to get into. Right now, I’m just concentrating on still playing and playing for as long as I can, but I’m definitely looking to stay in the game. Whether that’s as a coach or who knows, maybe one day having a crack at management.

I’ve got to say that winning the league, playing in a League Cup Final and getting to play in the Premier League with Cardiff are three massive highlights of my career, so I’ll never forget it that’s for sure.