Karaoke, confidence & a night in De Vitos - inside Arbroath's title celebrations
Danny Denholm plays for Arbroath, who secured Scotland's League One title on Saturday. The 28-year-old winger combines playing part-time with his job as a PE teacher in Dunfermline, but was previously a full-time footballer with Livingston. He has since dropped down the divisions with Forfar Athletic and now Arbroath, both under the management of the inimitable Dick Campbell. Here, he tells us about title success, karaoke and overcoming his self doubt.
My belly is still full of lager, my head is still pounding, and I've still not had the chance to sit back and fully take in the fact that me and my mates have won the League One championship. But one thing I have learned over these past few days is that Arbroath has a nightclub. And one apparently named after the town's most famous son, Danny De Vito.
As you can see, it's been quite a few days, so bear with me while I try and recount it through my bleary memories…
First, the obvious bit. We drew with Brechin City at Glebe Park on Saturday to secure the point we needed to clinch the title and, with it, promotion to the Championship. The game wasn't great, and we were nervous, but the feeling when the referee blew for full-time was something else. The release for everyone at the club was clear to see from the pitch invasion. But what not so many will know is what happened next.
We were all still in our Arbroath strips when we rampaged into the "Tutties Neuk" pub across the road from Gayfield, where we didn't have to buy a drink. Excellent news for my tight-fisted team-mate Greig Spence. And after a bit of a sing song (my particular favourite was "When [Omar] Kader runs the wing he's as fast as lightning, it's frightening", to the tune of Scooter's "Logical Song") and a wee bit of crowd surfing, we headed back to the ground and the boardroom.
Speeches from the charismatic manager Dick Campbell - and his less charismatic brother Iain - followed, as did some excellent - and slightly less than excellent - renditions on the karaoke. I don't think I would be blowing my own trumpet to suggest my cover of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" was far superior to Tam O'Brien's cover of "Valerie"; nonetheless, they both seemed to be appreciated in equal measure. Then, finally, there were several touching tributes. The one to John Ritchie - one of the gaffer's best friends in football and a member of the backroom staff until he died last May - was particularly resonant, as we could see how much that moment meant to our gaffer.
From there, it was on to De Vitos. I don't think I opened my wallet all night thanks to the fans. We probably all had one too many but everyone deserved it after a season in which we won the league with three games to spare, having led from the first day to the last.
Some bookmakers had us as long as 12/1 - fourth favourites - last summer, so how did we do it?
No big-time Charlies
Despite this being the third tier of Scottish football, you would be amazed at how many players cut about with a big ego. That can damage teams and it can spread through a dressing room with boys starting to think "we've made it". That didn't happen with us. Since October, we have been the favourites and some even said the league was done in January, but we knew that was nonsense and didn't get ahead of ourselves.
Don't worry about anyone else
At our level, there is very little between the teams. A bit of luck here and there, a bit more hunger and a bit of momentum make all the difference. So you can't worry about other teams because it can make you doubt, especially when you are out in front.
When I was with Forfar Athletic a couple of season ago, we were 11 points clear in March. But Arbroath - with the gaffer in charge - beat us to the title on the final day after a mix of misfortune, nervousness and a real shift of momentum. The problem was, week after week we became more worried about what the Arbroath score was and took our eyes off our own games. I learned from that this season.
Familiarity breeds content
We've all heard the line about 'the most important thing being the team'. I've always had my suspicions about how honest a player is when he trots out this old cliché, because players have to be single-minded and worry about their next start, next goal, next contract and next club.
At Arbroath, though, we've had a settled squad who have been together for the past two or three season. You'd be amazed how much of a difference that wee bit of security and familiarity brings. And every one of those boys has contributed.
Bobby Linn has been unstoppable almost every week, getting us points from the jaws of a draw or defeat and looks like an absolute shoe-in to be the League 1 player of the year. But there are others who have made vital contributions at key moments. Guys like Ryan McCord, who has been used sparingly, but has chipped in with some massive goals.
That atmosphere goes beyond the dressing room, too. Like a lot of lower league clubs, what goes on behind the scenes can often go unnoticed, but the work of the likes of Julie, the tea lady - an Arbroath fan who gets to see very little of the match - and Louise, who sorts everything from kit to food to player expenses, makes a massive difference. You can see how much this season means to them and to the likes of the chairman and directors.
The Campbell twins
Confession time: I've had a poor season. I've been in and out of the side and at times have felt down, angry and racked with self doubt. But Dick and Iain have never allowed me to let those emotions to fester. They've been honest with me, kept my spirits up, and humbled me when needed. Players want a manager who calls a spade a spade, and it won't surprise anyone to know that Dick Campbell does exactly that. Usually with a barrage of swearies thrown in for good effect.
Players appreciate being treated like adults rather than naughty school boys, but you wouldn't believe how many managers that adopt the latter approach. That trust works both ways and the players have repaid his loyalty by becoming the first part-time side to win League One in seven years.