Danny Denholm: My Psyche
Danny Denholm is many different things to many different people. A P.E teacher to his students, a footballer to East Fife supporters, a blogger to Scottish football lower league followers, but fire his name into Wikipedia and Danny’s defined identity is vastly differently.
‘When I first broke into football I’d look at the internet, look on forums, Wikipedia and all that stuff. I don’t anymore but my mum does, so she texted me saying “do you know you’re only 4”7 on your Wiki page.” I don’t know who’s done that, either someone with far too much time on their hands or the gentleman at Hearts who released me for being too small has fallen on hard times.’
Whilst Danny prides himself on his ability to be adaptable in accordance to who he is speaking with, a ‘social chameleon’ as he calls it, he suggests that it stems from an upbringing slightly different to most Scottish footballers.
‘I had a fortunate upbringing, fairly middle class compared to what is surrounding me at the moment in terms of football and my work as a P.E teacher. I probably, on paper, had a better upbringing than most of the kids I am working with and the players I play with in the dressing room.’
At an age where you’d do anything to fit in with your pals, was he aware of the contrast at the time as a young teen? Danny suggests that although the differences were subtle and he wouldn’t cycle to Hearts training sessions on a penny-farthing wearing a waist-coat made entirely of £50 notes, they were still enough to feel somewhat different.
‘I didn’t initially notice. I went to Broughton High School in Edinburgh where there was a mix of some nice areas around it but also some tough areas. The kids I was mates with, because I played football, they would also play football too. It tends to be that typically people from working class areas go to the football so I was surrounded by that. If I was to go to a mate’s after school then it would usually be a tough area. As you get older, in the dressing room you realise that the banter and all that is a bit edgier and there’s a few more profanities flying around than I’d be used to in my household.’
Instead of feeling like a black sheep, Danny decided to embrace these differences and use them to help him find ways to adapt his communication to anybody, regardless of class, race or age.
‘People always ask who are you, what personality are you etcetera. I adjust and adapt to fit my surroundings. Nowadays, if I am speaking to people in the staff room I’ll be professional and formal, whereas with the kids it’s slower and a bit more approachable. When I go back into the football dressing room though I am acting like a ten year old kid again and I’m loving it. There’s so many different approaches and I wouldn’t say any one of them are alien to me. I’d say all of them lead to the idea that there’s not one set personality with me and I can fit into various surroundings accordingly.’
How does Danny manage to find common ground though? Well, humour, they say, is often the best forger of effective friendships and relationships. In Scotland though, a country where a joke delivered by John from John ‘o’ Groats will vastly differ from a gag from Ross from Rosshall, what are the different types of humour in a Scottish dressing room?
‘There are so many different strands. There’s the loud west coaster, usually with very average patter. It’s usually the whole “your mum” type chat. It’s often juvenile, less often funny. West coasters just have this confidence though which I wish I had sometimes. Their patter tends to be distinctly average though but because they are the loudest ones it sometimes swallows the dressing room.’
What does this mean for the rest of Scotland though if Ross from Rosshall is drowning out a well-timed pun from John from John ‘o’ Groats with “your mum” shouts and slipping on banana humour?
‘You’ve also got your sort of ex-university players or people from Teuchter-land who have similar sorts of patter. It tends to be a bit more dry, a bit more clever, cynical and sarcastic. There’s also the Fifers and Dundonians who are great. They are a bit like west coasters in the sense that they are brash, loud, but also slightly more self-depreciating. Then you get the outliers who are just completely unique and have you wondering where they have cropped up from. They are the ones who can float everywhere, the jack-of-all-trades and can participate in all types of humour. To this day though, whilst I pride myself on being academic in a certain manner, there is nothing better than a well placed bit of toilet humour which you’ll get within 30 seconds of entering a football dressing room.’
Through that answer alone, you can tell that categorising and analysing behaviour is something that comes naturally with Danny. That is a likely reason behind the success of his online blog Lower League Ramblings. Writing though, Danny suggests, hasn’t always been something he’s been overly interested in.
‘I was okay at English, I had a tutor and I managed to just scrape a C in Higher. My mum was a librarian, a really good writer and my dad was quite good at formal writing and stuff. Sport though was all I cared about. It wasn’t until I got into my mid-twenties when I started doing my postgrad and was regularly writing essays that I got a knack for writing. I started to read more and enjoy it. I’d read a lot of papers and thought the media coverage of the lower leagues was pretty rubbish so I thought I’d give it a go and write some stuff from the perspective of a player which hasn’t really been done before. Fortunately it was well received and I got a buzz from it so I kept going. I’ve found it to be a really good outlet for me.’
Whilst Danny has embraced the blog as it has risen in popularity, the thing he is perhaps most thankful for is the chance to have found a new passion and hobby.
‘Writing has opened up different doors for me — the podcast I’m doing, media appearances on the likes of 5 Live and Off The Ball. All these things I enjoy doing and it gives me a bit of purpose for something that excites me. I know it’s quite a diluted industry but I’ll just see where it goes.’
Quick fire questions
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Curious, overthinker and caring.
How would your family/friends describe you in three words?
Charismatic, driven and maybe humble but can you say that and actually be humble? It’s quite a paradox.
Are you more introverted or extroverted?
I don’t think exclusively either, it goes back to that whole chameleon thing. I’d probably say maybe a little bit more introverted though, a wee bit.
Best moment of your career/life so far?
Career-wise, the moment I passed my teaching postgrad because I had no direction in my career up until then. For football, I’d say Forfar and Arbroath promotions. Personally, meeting my fiance Katie when I didn’t have much direction in my life.
Most challenging moment of career/life so far?
When I was released from Livingston after going full-time.
Biggest personality strength?
Open-minded. It’s helped me change some of my own behaviours that weren’t perhaps all that great. I wasn’t the most resilient person in the world but was open minded to try change and listen to how to improve as a person.
Biggest personality weakness?
Overthinking. I can let the doubts creep in at times, wonder if I am good enough or if I am an imposter. Even as an experienced teacher now I sometimes think am I talking out my arse here? Sometimes in football I think do I deserve to be on this park? The overthinking of moves, what move I’ll do next probably holds me back a little bit.
Piece of advice you’d like to give to readers?
Suffer a bit to enjoy the good times, happy times and relaxing times. You have to go through uncomfortable times to enjoy the good times. That’s probably my own spin on don’t get too high with the highs or too low with the lows.