Wednesday, 5 September 2012

John Devine

1987 - 89 : IK Start (Norway)
1991 - 92 : East Bengal (India)

An interesting one, Devine dated beautiful women, played at the highest level in England, as well as representing his country, before ending his career in a far flung part of the world, that had little or no footballing tradition.

He was born in Dublin in 1958 and at the tender age of 16, he was snapped up by London giants Arsenal as a trainee. The right-back became part of a large Irish contingent in the Arsenal youth team, alongside Liam Brady, Frank Stapleton and David O'Leary. Making his senior debut in 1978, he would go on to play over 110 times for the Gunners, before moving to Norwich in 1983. 

Between 1979 and 1984, the Dubliner won 13 caps for the Republic of Ireland national team. He first wore the green shirt against Czechoslovakia, and last wore it against Norway. In 1980 he married Miss Ireland Michelle Rocca, after dating a number of high profile beauties in England.

He played over 70 times for the Canaries  and in 1985, moved to Stoke City, but his time with the Potters was frustrated by three broken legs which ended his professional career in England at just 28.

In the early spring of 1987 he signed for Norwegian club IK Start at the age of 29, with whom he would also work as a coach. Founded in 1906, Start had been crowned champions of Norway twice, in 1978 and 1980. Home matches are played at the 11,000 capacity Sor Arena, but in 1987 the 16,000 capacity Kristiansand Stadion served that purpose.

When the Dubliner arrived, the club were managed by Englishman Brian Green who signed Devine, having been familiar with the his exploits at Arsenal and Norwich. Other members of the Start squad were the then 17 year old, future Norway star Erik Mykland and Englishman Paul Richardsen.

His first season with Start would be disappointing however, as the club finished last in the First Division on just 25 points from 22 matches. After one season in the Second Division, they bounced back and regained promotion to the top flight. In the 1989 First Division season they did well, finishing in 9th and avoiding the drop. Another Irishman Mike McCabe from Waterford, notched 10 goals that year for Tromso, making him the league's fifth highest scorer.

Devine (middle-row, fourth from left) with Start in 1988

After the Norwegian season finished in October of that year, Devine moved back to Ireland and signed for Milltown club Shamrock Rovers. Over two years with Rovers he managed to win an FAI Cup, as well as make 41 appearances and score 7 goals.

In 1990 he divorced his wife and began searching for a new challenge and a new life. So on July 1st 1991, he moved to India of all places, to sign for East Bengal FC.

Founded in 1920, the club were known as Kingfisher East Bengal in 1991, but are today simply known as East Bengal. Playing today at the 120,000 capacity Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata, the club hold the record for the longest uninterrupted stint in India's Top Tier. 

India at the time, didn't have a national league, so Devine played for Kingfisher in the Kolkata League, which the club won the league in 1992, with Devine an important member of the squad. In India he also played in Sikkim Gold Cup, the Rovers Cup and the Indian Football Association Shield.

Back, middle, centre with East Bengal
The Dubliner is currently included in East Bengal's Hall of Fame.

He retired after leaving Kingfisher, and during the 1990s he worked with Shelbourne and Manchester United in various capacities. In 2008 he was appointed Head Coach of the now-defunct Sporting Fingal side, helping them earn promotion to the Irish Premier Division and qualify for the the Europa League qualifiers in 2010.

A rather interesting career path for player that could have been so much more successful  had it not been for injuries. 

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