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 the end, Ross County made me go up and train for the last two weeks of my deal, but it was the same case as Dundee United and I was told I wouldn’t be offered a new contract.

We’ll come back to that summer in a bit but, going back to Falkirk, the club’s form picked up after the turn of the year as you mentioned, and within that upturn, was a 6-1 demolition of Dundee United in which you scored The Bairns’ second goal. I noticed you enjoyed your celebration after that goal; did you have it in your mind that you wanted to prove a point to your former employers? Of course! I actually knew I was going to score that day! Even though it was a different manager, I still wanted to show them what I could do. Especially after we went 1-0 down in the game and it was partially my fault! Peter Grant scored not long after so he saved me a little, as I was shitting myself a little bit!

The run that Falkirk put together in the second half of the season saw them steer clear of any relegation worries. As you’ve touched on, Paul Hartley then set about rebuilding the entire squad that summer; were you ever close to being a part of that? When I left Falkirk I never heard anything from them. That was frustrating as I was really keen to stay. As bad a season as it was for the club performance-wise, we did pretty well during my time. The club were just unfortunate with the start they had and I feel that they have carried that misfortunate on since then with where they are now. But, looking back, we played really well in the league during the second half of that season and we reached the Scottish Cup Quarter Final. We ended up losing to Rangers at Ibrox but Aaron Muirhead scored a terrible goal to make it 1-1. He ran the full length of the pitch to celebrate! I was buzzing with it but I couldn’t believe how much Aero milked that! Craig Sibbald had skewed a shot way off target that hit Muirhead and the ball ended up trickling over the line, and there he is sprinting the length of Ibrox! (Laughs) Thirty seconds later they made it 2-1! I scored the goal against Livingston earlier on in that cup run which was amazing as well.

As it happened, you signed for Morton instead. Meanwhile, Falkirk’s disastrous start to the season saw Paul Hartley lose his job just two weeks in to the season. He was then replaced by your Morton boss Ray McKinnon. We asked Charlie Telfer this as well, but how did you take to that news? Well, even before that, I had a trial at Hamilton so I basically did my pre-season there. In the end, I never got a deal. I then went in to Morton with Ray McKinnon who were playing a trial match against Queens Park which I did well in and actually signed after that game. I thought it was a good opportunity to play every week again in a good league; I was still very young and game time was my priority. So I had even less time with the manager. But we started the league season really well - we beat Ross County who went on to win the league, and were sitting 2nd; we were feeling confident. We had Partick Thistle next and we thought we would beat them as we were flying. Then, on the Friday, we came in to train and it was the best session I’ve ever been involved in. The Chairman was there, everyone was buzzing; there was a feel-good factor around the place. That same night we got a text from the gaffer to say he was away! Jonatan Johansson was then given the job and he brought in Peter Houston as his assistant - I felt like I had just seen him on FaceTime! (Laughs)

We spoke with Jai Quitongo recently who features in Stonewaller Number 2 and he mentioned that he got a bit of a culture shock at Morton when he went in to Cappielow - how did you find it having been at Dundee United, Ross County and Falkirk? It was a culture shock for me as well - 100%. The training ground is the worst pitch ever! In my opinion, the set-up at Morton doesn’t give you the best chance of succeeding on the pitch. Even at the canteen, it would just be soup and wraps every single day. Now I miss that, though! (Laughs) But the players did really well that year given the circumstances. The craziness went right up to the last game of the season against Dundee United when, an hour before kick-off, the management team left! I think Charlie mentioned this in his interview, but he had a clause in his contract whereby if he started 25 games he would trigger an extension. He was on his 24th… obviously! Then the chairman told the manager that he couldn’t start. So, on the back of that, Jonatan Johansson and Houstie resigned on the spot! Half of the players hadn’t even turned up to the game yet! Myself, Charlie and a few others were just early as we had to travel far…

“Thanks boys, but we’re leaving”.

“What?! Where are you going, like? The game starts in an hour!” (Laughs)

I think that last game of the season just summed up the full year. The manager leaves before kick-off, two players take the team, Charlie didn’t start, we won 1-0 and end up finishing 5th having almost been dragged in to a relegation battle a few weeks before! It was madness.

I noticed that you signed a contract extension with Morton in June of 2019 but went out on loan to Dumbarton in the August - what can you tell us about that? So David Hopkin came in and promised me various things that never transpired. I had the same clause in my contract as Charlie had but reached the 25 games before the end of the season. That’s why I had signed the contract in the first place. But you were supposed to get an increased wage with that as that was your reward for making that contribution the previous season. That never happened either as players who achieved that ended up taking wage cuts to sign an extension. So Hopkin mentioned giving me travelling expenses to compensate for that as I was travelling in from Stirling every day, which I really appreciated. Then the club mentioned that they didn’t want me travelling that far in the car before games so they would put me up in a hotel on Fridays. That is the kind of thing you want to hear as a player as the club are looking to help you out and make you feel wanted. Then they introduced a new lunch menu as well, so I was loving it! (Laughs) Did any of that happen when the pre-season started, though? No, it didn’t. Even when the games came around he wasn’t picking me and played other guys out of position at right-back. The only positive note I had was coming on at Easter Road for the first time and scoring a last-minute equaliser in a 3-3 draw against Hibs - I actually did an Aaron Muirhead back to the Morton fans! But that was for a good reason, it was the 90th minute and not the 21st when he did it! (Laughs) He then brought in Paul Caddis on trial so I chapped his door to understand what the situation was. I was still annoyed from the unfulfilled promises, but I had almost accepted that and wanted to understand my status in the squad. I appreciate that younger players can be taken in and out, but I had played a lot of games the previous season and had established myself in the team. I felt that my progress had been halted and I wanted to understand if I would be given an opportunity to play in the forthcoming weeks. Jim Duffy got in touch with me around that time to see if I fancied coming on loan and I just said “yes” straight away as I just wanted to play. The next day I went in to Morton David Hopkin came straight over to me and said “you alright?”. I’m standing there knowing he knows about Dumbarton, and he knows I know about Dumbarton! We just stood looking at each other for what must have been a minute before he said “so have you got something to tell me?”. I don’t know, do I?! (Laughs) That’s how it was with Hopkin and I - he was always off with me. It was just a case of going to Dumbarton and enjoying football again and looking to get back on track. We didn’t even have a kitman or a physio at Morton! Players were coming in with injuries looking to see someone but they couldn’t - we had to give massages to one another!

How did you adapt to the part-time week structure for the first time in your career over at The Rock? I struggled. I think a lot of players just flat-out can’t do it as it’s really hard. Even the guys who are used to it are turning up for training shattered after a long day at work. I’d turn up raring to go but other guys might not be up for it given the day they’ve had, which is totally understandable, but that’s what it makes it hard to adapt to.

Having had two loan spells in your career so far and experienced difficult scenarios at both, would you recommend going out on loan to a fellow professional? 100%. Especially if you’re younger. There’s no records kept for development league games so I would advise players to get in to senior football as soon as possible. Managers look at that when they are signing a player so I would definitely recommend going on loan, despite the challenges I’ve faced!

I also read that you wanted to add more goals to your game after signing your new contract with Morton. You then got three in 17 appearances with Dumbarton… so not bad! But how would you describe your style of play? I would say I’m an attacking full-back. I would say Hector Bellerin would be a good blueprint for myself; I just like to get up and down as much as possible. I obviously played right-wingback at Falkirk which I felt suited my game and I really enjoyed that. Having been a striker earlier on in my career, I do have an eye for goal as well so that’s something I’ll continue to work on.

You mentioned Hector Bellerin there, who is known just as much for his dress sense as his ability on the park; with that in mind, do you look to any footballers for fashion inspiration as well? Firstly, Hector Bellerin is way too cool for me! (Laughs) I follow him on everything - I’m a big fan! Staying with Arsenal full-backs, Kieran Tierney has his own thing going on with the Stone Island style which is cool. But I tend just to do my own thing - which is mostly Nike all day, every day!

How about music, who do you include on your playlist? I would say Future, Drake, Migos; artists like that. But I’ve overplayed that playlist of late, so I’m looking to broaden my horizons!

Do you think that music and urban culture as a whole is becoming more and more prevalent within football? Definitely. I think that’s even becoming the case with your teammates. We’ve touched on him already but Kieran Tierney would be the flag bearer for that in Scotland as you know what he listens to going by what he wears. Harry Souttar loved that same scene but I could never get in to it! But that’s how demographics work and how changing rooms are so different up and down the country.

One element of urban football culture is football strip fashion; do you have a favourite kit that you like to incorporate in to your outfits? There was a Barcelona kit I had when I was younger which was bright yellow and I loved it. So, when Barcelona brought out their yellow away kit for last season as part of the retro Nike collection I went and bought two of them! Football kits from the 80’s and 90’s with the baggy style are so cool, though.

Some of the Raith players we have spoken to were a bit sceptical about the move from Puma to Joma; despite not being there last season, how do you feel about the switch up? I don’t mind it, to be fair! Although I had Puma at Falkirk and I really liked that. It was Macron at County which was horrendous! I used to say “what is this rugby supplier doing on a football kit?” (Laughs) But Morton didn’t even have a kit maker! Dumbarton were Joma so I was buzzing to get that having been at Morton. So, yeah, I don’t mind it!

Just on Raith Rovers, you signed a two-year deal with The Championship new boys back in the summer; how important is that security for a player in the SPFL? Well, Morton were trying to keep me at the end of last season but I wasn’t really interested in staying given the way I had been treated. The gaffer at Raith got in touch with me during the break and I got a good feel from that call. We went to meet the manager and see the stadium, but I played and won there last year with Dumbarton and it was a good atmosphere - Raith are a massive club with a really good fan base. So when the offer came through and it was a two-year deal, it really was a confidence booster for myself to feel trusted and wanted, especially with my situation the year prior and everything that was going on in the world.

Raith Rovers operate a hybrid system with players on part-time and full-time contracts. Do you think your experience in both of those environments will help you settle faster at Starks Park? It definitely will. I had been full-time everyday since I was 16 until I went to Dumbarton so it really opened my eyes to that side of Scottish football. So I’ll definitely lean on that experience for the hybrid system. But, having looked at the timetables, we don’t actually start too late in the day - it’s a mid-afternoon start - I think the gaffer is just trying to go down some European route! (Laughs)

I noticed that you looked a lot stronger in your Raith Rovers pictures, was that as a result of lockdown? Yeah it was. I think that, having done so much running in my career, I struggled to put weight on. I would do gym work but I’d almost run it off. So the lack of football offered me a chance to focus on getting stronger… and that’ll disappear as soon as the season starts! (Laughs)

Words: Scott Kelly

Photography: Connor Stewart

Location: University of the West of Scotland

Styling: Scott Kelly / Reghan Tumilty

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