REGHAN TUMILTY - Homeward Bound

Reghan Tumilty could be forgiven for losing his way since leaving Dundee United a few years back - both geographically and professionally. The former-forward-come-full-back has travelled from coast to coast since his Highland Expedition with Ross County came to an end as recently as 2018. There was also a short stopover for some much-needed fuel at Dumbarton Rock last season. But having been pitted against managers who didn’t place their trust in his potential, the defender was left wondering which direction his career was heading in.

Not now, though. It would appear that Tumilty has found a safe haven just over the Kincardine Bridge in Kirkcaldy under the stewardship of John McGlynn. It might be the European style of training if not the weather - don’t worry, we’ll cross that bridge too when we come to it. Whatever the reason may be, Tumilty is certainly thriving in his new surroundings. As are his teammates as they look to upset the odds once more and become the latest club to achieve back-to-back league titles amid challenges from rival pair Heart of Midlothian and Dunfermline Athletic. You certainly wouldn’t bet against them, having achieved that same feat against River Forth foes Falkirk earlier this year.

In the meantime, however, we caught up with the marauding full-back just prior to the resumption of Rovers’ double promotion push to understand his footballing journey to Stark’s Park, music, fashion, urban culture, and more. Here’s how it went.

Tell us about your first interaction with football. I think I was just like any young kid in that all I wanted to do was kick a football about all day. I lived down in London and Brighton when I was really young due to my dad’s work commitments, so I started playing youth football down there.

You signed for Dundee United as a 16 year-old, so how did that come about? We moved back to Stirling and I just went down to the astroturf pitches at Forthbank where a lot of teams were training - Stirling Albion obviously being one but there were a few others. My dad and I just walked over, bold as could be, and asked to train with Dundee United. It was arranged that I would go along the following week, which I did and ended up performing well, which meant they asked me to sign.

How long did you remain in Stirling for before making the move to Dundee? Two or three years. I only went to school in Scotland for two years before I moved up to digs in Dundee at 16; some of the stories from there are a joke!

Joe McKee mentioned that to us! What are your fondest memories from that time - if you can call it that! Obviously I couldn’t repeat them all! I think it has gone from the game now, but it was almost borderline bullying back in those days! (Laughs) There were nine or ten rooms with two guys in each; it was a madhouse! Looking back though, the house was full of superstars. Andy Robertson stayed in the room next door to me and now he is winning Premier League and Champions League medals. There were other guys like Ryan Gauld and John Souttar who were brilliant as well. On John Souttar, he is involved in one of my funniest memories from that house. So the woman who looked after us hated dishes being left out, but she was up against it having twenty teenage boys in the house! One day, she just lost her head at Soapy over a bowl of cereal, so she took the box and tipped it over his head! (Laughs) She just ran away screaming ‘Fuck off Soapy!’ in an English accent. I don’t think the rest of us standing by laughing at the situation helped much, though! There was never a day that nothing wouldn't happen; and it would usually involve the younger boys!

Your first year at Dundee United coincided with the club’s run to The Scottish Cup Final. There was a youthful feel to the team at that time and you’ve mentioned some of the names already - did that give you hope of breaking in to the first-team the following season? It did, yeah. I moved up from the under-17’s to the reserves to play under Stevie Campbell, who was responsible for bringing all the younger players through. So, at that point, I was very optimistic. I actually played as a striker or a winger back then, which is strange as it wasn’t that long ago!

That is actually a question for later on! Oh, right ok! I’ll hold off until then. But I wasn’t making much progress with the reserves after Stevie Campbell left. By that stage, the first-team manager had changed and the team were struggling, which further reduced my chances of breaking in to the side.

That’s right as Mixu Paatelainen came in during the 2015/16 season and oversaw Dundee United’s relegation from The Scottish Premiership. You then moved on to Ross County at the end of that season - what do you remember from that period? So I was actually looking to stay with Dundee United; we all went up for a meeting at Tannadice to hear about our futures - it felt like D-Day! I went in to my meeting to be told I wouldn’t be getting a new deal; that was devastating and was the first time in my career that I had been rejected by a club. I was looking around thinking “what do I do next?”. I had to get myself an agent and find myself a club, that is how my move to Ross County came about.

You mentioned you moved up to Dundee when you first signed for United, but, from Stirling, you are only an hour-or-so from home. How did you find it being up in Dingwall at 19 years of age? When I first moved to Dundee at 16 I thought it was miles away! I couldn’t drive at the time, I had to get the train, and had to lug about this Nike bag with my fucking weeks life in it! (Laughs) But, in comparison to what I had been used to in the digs at Dundee United, Ross County was a breeze! Everyone up there was almost too nice. They live in a bubble and have a very laidback lifestyle which never suited me. I spent most of my spare time in Tesco using the Wi-Fi! (Laughs)

You made your first foray in to senior football when you made your debut against Celtic in a 2-0 defeat at Celtic Park. What do you recall from that game? Nothing! (Laughs) It’s all a blur. I do remember bits of it; I grew up a Celtic fan though, so it was a huge occasion for me. I had impressed with the under-20’s during the first part of the season so had made a few travelling squads and was in it again for the Celtic game. We would always stay in a hotel before away games due to the distance and that would be where the manager would let us know the team, but it was done on a flip chart which would be covered initially. So I walked in to the room for the Celtic game praying to be on the bench as I really wanted the opportunity to play at Celtic Park. I remember Jim McIntyre was doing a huge talk before revealing the team and I’m just sat there thinking “flip that bit of paper already!”. (Laughs) There was always a couple of players who missed out on making the matchday squad but he flipped it over and I was named as a sub; I was buzzing! Even if it was just to warm-up at half-time and shoot in to the goals! (Laughs) I remember being so nervous on the bus journey to the stadium and then, when we got to Celtic Park and went in to the changing rooms, thinking how surreal it was. We then went out to warm-up but I am terrible for forgetting things, so I went back in to the changing room that night to pick up my shinguards and the manager was in there. He called me over and said that, when I go on, just to relax and play my normal game. ‘Wait. What do you mean “when I go on?!”’ I was thinking. So, from the first minute, I am absolutely shitting myself about coming on after what he has just said to me! I think I ended up getting on for the last thirty minutes and it was an amazing experience to do it in front of my family.

From that point on, you made a further eleven appearances before signing a short-term loan deal with Falkirk in November 2017. Tell us more about that. So Owen Coyle came in at that point - unfortunately for me as Jim McIntyre was sacked just as I was making my way in to his team. Owen Coyle said that the younger players would still get a chance to play, but that never really worked out. The training was strange too under Coyle; it felt like we just did shooting every day for cakes and Irn-Bru! I remember he sent one of the young boys for a fish supper as well for his lunch! It was madness. Anyway, Coyle phoned me up one night and told me that Paul Hartley at Falkirk wanted to take me on loan. Instantly I wanted to go as I knew how big a club Falkirk are and some of my mates are Falkirk fans as well. My agent told me I’d play every week so it was a no-brainer. The only issue was, I got this phone call when I had came home for the weekend to Stirling! Which meant my boots and belongings were up in Dingwall and there was no chance I was going to buy myself new boots on my Under-20’s wage! So I had to drive up at 8 o’clock at night and back down for training with Falkirk the next day. I was used to that drive anyway as I was home so often to see friends and family. I used to do it on a Sunday but, one time, I tried to do it on a Monday morning at 5am. Jim McIntyre lived in Dunblane though, and he caught me! He went through me that day - I was shitting myself! (Laughs) But I was buzzing to sign for Falkirk and I really enjoyed my time there.

You were the second signing of Paul Hartley’s winter overhaul at Falkirk. When you first went in to the club they were sitting in the relegation play-off spot; what was the morale in the dressing room like at that stage? The morale was pretty low. But the boys tried to keep the spirits high and have a laugh and a joke. That may sound or look bad to supporters but you need that when you’re struggling. You can’t just turn in to a robot because you are losing matches. If the morale is good then that will show in performances and it eventually did as time went on. Louis Longridge would be good for keeping everyone upbeat; he is a mad guy! Jordan McGhee and Lewis Kidd would be good for that as well.

Did the dynamics within the dressing room begin to shift at all as players started to come and go throughout December and January? I didn’t notice it as much when I was there as the players he released in January had already been frozen out by the time I arrived, so I mainly noticed the additions. I think it was the following summer after I left when he seemed to go ‘Fuck it!’ and brought in Love Island boys and things like that… (Laughs) But I remember going on a Christmas night out and Paul Watson FaceTiming Peter Houston! I’m sat there thinking ‘wasn't he the manager before?’. The boys were all encouraging Paul to phone Houstie despite everyone being in fancy dress - some players are jockeys, Lewis Kidd is dressed as a woman and whatnot! So Houstie answers the phone in his living room and I’m just sitting wondering what the hell is going on! That was just the bond he had with the players. I think it was a totally different relationship with Hartley. It was only Hartley at first as well; he brought in Jimmy Nicholl later on who was brilliant, but then he went to Rangers and Gordon Young came in as assistant. Gordon Young was assistant to Mixu Patelainan at Dundee United, so I was wary of him not being my biggest fan. True enough, I ended up not playing the last few games of Falkirk’s season; although, in fairness, they may have been preparing for the following season. Whilst this is going on, I hadn’t heard anything from Ross County, who had sacked Owen Coyle and were heading for relegation. They replaced Coyle with Stuart Kettlewell from the Under-20’s, so I thought I would be in with a chance. In