Football: Dailly' grinds can bring World Cup reward

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The Independent Online
Christian Dailly may enjoy rock festivals but, as Phil Shaw discovered, next summer he would rather get his fix of that special atmosphere created by crowds of fans singing and swaying, by playing in front of Scotland's Tartan Army at the World Cup finals.

Footballers, according to the stereotype, holiday in Ibiza and regard Elton John as the adventurous end of a musical spectrum that starts with "Lady in Red". Outmoded and unfair as the image may be, Christian Dailly still stands out as an oddball.

As his contemporaries jetted off to Florida or the Caribbean at the end of an arduous season, Derby County's Scottish defender also headed west. Where he was bound, however, there were no rounds of cocktails or golf, no sunbeds and no sun. Dailly's idea of getting away from it all was to stand in a farmer's rain-lashed field in Somerset for three days having his senses assaulted.

This year's Glastonbury rock festival took place in what he describes as "knee-high mud". Conditions were so bad that his brother and the two friends with whom they attended were taking half an hour to wade from one stage to another. Dailly, having played on the treacly morass that was the Baseball Ground, jokes that he needed only five minutes to move between gigs.

His summing up of the festival ritual - "watch bands all day, lie in the tent at night" - confirms him as, well, different (though he is considered a good mixer rather than an outsider in the Graeme Le Saux mould). Surely, I suggest, a highly paid sportsman would prefer his creature comforts? "A hotel?" Dailly gasps, mortified. "No way! I'd never do that."

The side of Dailly that reveres Oasis and The Verve would love to return to "Glasto" next summer; he even presented one of his Scotland jerseys to John Squire, late of his beloved Stone Roses and now playing up front with The Seahorses.

Yet his professional and patriotic side fervently hopes he will have a prior engagement, a four-yearly festival which also commands large crowds of singing, swaying people: the World Cup finals.

Barring freak results, Scotland will book their passage to France if they beat Latvia in Glasgow on Saturday. Dailly, who is in line for his fifth cap, reflects the cautious optimism that characterises Craig Brown's meticulous style of management.

"Belarus were a decent side with a lot of guys who play for top Russian clubs," Dailly said. "Latvia are above them so we expect a tough match. But Craig will do his usual thorough briefing on their tactics and players. And if someone had said at the start of the campaign that we'd qualify if we beat Latvia at home, we'd have settled for that."

The former Dundee United player, who will be 24 this month, may be a relative novice in senior international terms but he is no stranger to the global stage. Breaking into his home-town team at 16, he was promptly called into Brown's Under-21 squad and went on to gain 34 caps, a world record at that level.

"I'm not sure if it's such a good record to have," Dailly admits. "If I'd never made the `big' team it wouldn't have meant that much, but I was determined to get in. I was on the bench once, as a striker away to Estonia in 1993, though it wasn't until this year that I was picked again.

"The two Colins [Hendry and Calderwood] were out, which gave me a chance in the friendlies against Wales and Malta, where I scored. I stayed in against Belarus in Minsk and again at Aberdeen last month."

The catalyst in Dailly's breakthrough was a pounds 1m transfer to Derby 16 months ago. Out of contract, he had talks with PSV Eindhoven, Cagliari, Celta Vigo, Coventry and Manchester City before a combination of Jim Smith's plans for him and a desire to inflict minimal upheaval on his young family led him to the East Midlands.

"It was the best thing all round, because United also got some money they wouldn't have had if I'd gone abroad under the Bosman ruling. I ended up making more appearances than anyone at the club, and if you're doing well in the Premiership you're bound to get noticed. Craig invited me to a winter get-together for his Anglo-Scots and told me then I hadn't been forgotten."

The fact that Smith gave him a settled role furthered Dailly's international ambitions. At Tannadice he played "right-back one week, left wing the next, then centre-forward and after that centre-half". He feared he was becoming more than useful in several positions but excelling in none.

"Sometimes you need a move to develop. There's a few who've come from United and established themselves in England - Kevin Gallacher, Duncan Ferguson and Billy McKinlay spring to mind - which tells you something about the coaching we received there."

Derby's squad is as cosmopolitan as they come, containing Danes, Dutchmen, Italians, Croats, Estonians, Costa Ricans and even the odd Englishman. But, explains Dailly, the treadmill of domestic fixtures allows little time for dwelling on the prospects for France 98, except when a player returns from some far-flung match, as Jamaica's Deon Burton did on Monday.

Pride Park's solitary Scot-cum-member of the Woodstock nation will be excused for making sure everyone hears about it if Latvia are vanquished. As part of a younger generation that Brown has been easing into place, Dailly may have the opportunity to play in other World Cups. But the sound of Celtic Park acclaiming Scotland's advance would be music to his ears; as Oasis might have said, he is mud for it.