5 Minutes with...
235 appearances in the Royal Blue jersey, I caught up with the former Everton and Scotland Captain to talk about his time at Goodison Park...
David Weir arrived at Everton mid-way through the 1998/99 season for a knockdown fee reported to be around the £200,000 mark, after hugely impressing north of the border during a fantastic spell at Hearts; a spell that had gained him international recognition with a place in the Scotland squad and reportedly brought him to the attention of teams such as Liverpool and Newcastle Utd.
Upon arrival at Goodison, Weir was predictably quizzed on the reported interest shown by Liverpool, telling the media at the time "Liverpool were definitely interested and I was linked with them, but Everton have come in and made me this offer and I'm more than happy to come here," he said.
"They were keen and that was good enough for me. Liverpool is all in the past. I have made my choice and joining Everton is fine by me."
“It was the management team of Walter Smith and Archie Knox that convinced me. It's a big, massive club and I have known about the manager and talked to people who have worked with him. That's impressed me and made the move more attractive and sealed it for me.”
The previous summer had seen the more cosmopolitan arrivals of players such as Olivier Dacourt and Marco Materazzi, followed by Ibrahima Bakayoko later arriving from Montpellier. It was an approach that had somewhat mixed success, and come the February Walter Smith got his man at the 3rd time of asking, after he had reportedly twice tried to sign him previously as manager of Rangers.
Weir would go on to make over 230 appearances at the club, becoming club captain and a mainstay of the Everton defence over many seasons. Loyal, reliable and hard-working; David Weir really was the very definition of the term STALWART.
In a career that amassed almost 700 appearances, for club and country, Weir formed no less than 40 centre half partnerships throughout his playing days, with 15 of those being at Everton. That list features statesmen such as Dave Watson and Richard Gough, steady partnerships with the likes of Joseph Yobo and Joleon Lescott, as well as more forgettable partnerships with Marco Materazzi and even Li Wei Feng! I was eager to know who he rated as his best partner at the heart of the Everton defence?
“I think I would have to say Stubbsy, because our styles complimented each other and we understood both of our strengths and weaknesses. We had a really good partnership together.”
When David talks of his strengths, the attributes he possessed on the field were obvious for all to see. He was big, strong in the tackle, good in the air, but perhaps most importantly of all; he was a calming influence, very rarely flustered.
His strengths off the field should not go unmentioned either. In a recent podcast interview with the club, former defender Gary Naysmith, a teammate of Weir’s at both Hearts and Everton spoke of how nervous and star struck he was upon joining Everton. A dressing room that featured the likes of Richard Gough, Duncan Ferguson and Mark Hughes, not to mention Paul Gascoigne, would be a daunting place for any young 21 year old! Naysmith spoke of how David took him under his wing and helped him to settle in to his new environment, even going the extra mile and inviting Gary and his partner over for Christmas dinner with the Weir family, when the Naysmith’s were living in a hotel.
It’s this kind of thing that shows that measure of the man, and why he was and still is, so universally liked by his peers and those who know him. It seems like none of this has been lost despite his advancing years, David turned 50 recently and was as friendly, polite and approachable to me when I contacted him recently as he was when I met him as a young kid at a club event at Goodison Park, even apologising for a slight delay – “old age is a terrible thing…” he quipped.
Richard Gough, in that same podcast interview with the club, also said that despite seeing him play for Falkirk and Hearts, he never appreciated just how good Weir was until he actually played alongside him. Gough was an idol of Weir’s as a young player, one of his footballing heroes. David openly admits that he had been thrilled just to meet him, let alone play with him.
“I learnt lots from him, I learnt how he took care of himself off the pitch, I learnt lots of things on the pitch, things that benefitted me personally later on in my career. To be 37/38 and still playing well in the Premier League opened my eyes as to what you need to do to prolong your career, it was great for me educationally.”
Weir's quiet leadership style and calm head perhaps makes it fitting that it was his goal against Newcastle in 2005, after such a nervy and frustrating start to the game, sent us on our way to securing 4th place in the Premier League that day, all but cementing a place in the Champions League qualifying rounds. The game up to that point had been torture to watch, Newcastle missing a host of chances and Everton were hanging on for the half time whistle, then up stepped Weir when the chance came and made no mistake, sending all of us in at half time in a completely different frame of mind.
That game in some ways epitomised us that season, we rode our luck at times, dug in, stuck together and then took our chances when they arrived. That group of players we had that season seemed to thrive on the underdog tag, grinding out results and defying the odds. Kevin Kilbane commented at the time how we had been “Mocked up and down the country”
The togetherness and team spirit was obvious for all to see, which was a testament to the character of the players we had at the time. How did that group of players match up to the squads Weir had been a part of throughout his career?
“It was definitely the best squad in terms of getting results, which is obviously the most important thing. Talent wise, probably not, but we were a really good solid unit and we all worked hard for each other”
“It could really have been something to build on and we were so close to doing that.”
David alludes to the swift elimination from the Champions League qualifying round at the hands of Villarreal, a hard luck story we have all failed to get over, even to this day…
“That disappointment took a long time to go away. We really struggled to recover from that and the season became really difficult for us afterwards”
David was an old school style centre half, and he also admits to enjoying the old school style of management he received under the stewardship of Walter Smith and Archie Knox, a style he had been used to at Hearts when playing for Jim Jeffries and Billy Brown, the straight-talking no-nonsense approach.
It’s no coincidence that David Weir played most of his career for clubs such as Everton and Rangers with such passionate and expectant support, it was something he thrived on, but not all players do, David tells me…
“Everton are such a great club but it can be difficult at times, because of just how passionate the supporters are. I personally enjoyed that and was used to it from my time in Scotland, but I think some players really struggle with that honesty and aggression that comes from the fans.”
And so to the future, Weir has just recently turned 50 and after a brief spell in management at Sheffield Utd a few years ago, followed by stints as Assistant Manager at Brentford, Rangers and then Nottingham Forest, he can now be found down at Brighton & Hove Albion, where he has been for almost 2 years now and is responsible for the development of their loan players…
“Yes I work for Brighton looking after the loan players, both on and off the pitch and I really enjoy it.”
David negotiates the loan deals with the relevant clubs and helps and supports the players while they are there, watching the games and making sure they are developing and supporting them off the pitch.
“I don’t have any plans to go back in to management, but then who knows in the future…”
I can’t think of a better role model and mentor for young players to have than David Weir and I’m convinced that whatever job he turns his hand to he will always lead by example. Good luck for the future David!