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daly abuse ‘The secretary had to read my letters’ – Dubliner Jon Daly on hate mail he received after signing for Rangers

St Pat’s assistant manager proud of Ibrox stint as he talks about move to Finland and finally returning home

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St Pat's assistant manager Jon Daly during a training session at Ballyoulster United FC in Kildare. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

St Pat's assistant manager Jon Daly during a training session at Ballyoulster United FC in Kildare. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

St Pat's assistant manager Jon Daly during a training session at Ballyoulster United FC in Kildare. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

There's more depth to the story of Jonathan Daly's career than the interest created by the Dubliner's decision to sign for Glasgow Rangers, but the new St Patrick's Athletic assistant manager now accepts why it's a recurring talking point.

He's been reminded of it a few times since moving back to Ireland from Finland over the winter, with the call from Tim Clancy allowing Daly to reacquaint himself with the country he left as a 15-year-old bound for Stockport.

Clancy, a big Celtic fan who spent the bulk of his playing career in Scotland, tends to make a quip when Daly produces blue bibs in training. "He's giving out to me for not using the green bibs," he smiles.

Yet there was also praise from Brian Kerr, the former Saints and Ireland manager who remains a part of the furniture at Inchicore. Kerr has previously spoken of favouring Rangers in his youth.

"He did say to me that he was very proud of me taking that step," grins the 39-year-old.

He is honest about his reasons for dropping down two divisions from the Scottish top flight to sign for Rangers in 2013 as they continued their climb up from rock bottom under a new trading name.

They were offering better money than Dundee United and while coverage centred on Daly being a Catholic, the reality is that the label meant nothing to him.

"The biggest thing at the time was religion and I’m not a religious person at all," he reflects.

"That aspect didn’t come into play for me. There were plenty of different reasons. It was an opportunity to play under Ally McCoist who I had a lot of time for. My wages obviously went up which helps when you get to that age (30).

"You don’t get much bigger crowds than at Ibrox, even when we were in the lower leagues. It ticked a lot of boxes for me.

"People spoke to me about going to other places but when there’s no offers on the table, you can’t just do an Odemwingie and turn up somewhere. After speaking to Ally and how passionate he was about the club it was a no-brainer."

The decision was contentious and the mailbag wasn't always kind to Daly, whether it was from his own club's supporters or from their rivals.

"You got the odd bit and it was from both sides. That was part and parcel," he shrugs.

"It got to the stage where I was telling the secretary at the training ground to read my letters. If it was negative, I didn’t want to see it and if it was ticking, don’t open it.

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"My wife says it all the time that I’m a very emotionless person when it comes to stuff like that. I can brush off that stuff quite comfortably.

"Of course, it was a big deal when you step back and take stock of it. At the time I wasn’t thinking about it."

Daly admits that he was quite happy to see Rangers return to the top of the tree in Scotland although he brushes off a query about pride in his own role as they clambered back up the ladder.

"You're part of history, but it’s not down to me that they’ve won the SPFL," he says. "I’m happy for the fans that they’ve got back to the club that they were.

"The structure inside the club was ginormous, the training ground, structure, fan base home and away. It was crazy. The people who work at the club had to put in a lot of hard yards to get back where they belong. My part in that was very small."

Daly has a big role to play at the Saints and is glad that Clancy - who he got to know on a coaching course - reached out when he left Drogheda for Dublin 8.

His career in the dugout kicked off at Hearts where he was initially hired as U-20 boss but had two stints as interim manager before departing in early 2020 when Daniel Stendel opted to bring in his own men.

The Finnish relocation was on account of a friendship with Jonatan Johansson, the ex-Rangers attacker who needed a number two at TPS Turku. It was an enjoyable one with the exception of the winter temperatures.

As a player, he shunned opportunities in the League of Ireland, opting to stick it out in the English lower leagues and then Scotland because he associated going home with failure. He now views the league differently and sees his new job as a progression.

"I probably didn't have any plans to come back to Ireland but when you go into coaching, when you're in football, you don't know what's around the corner," he says.

"I looked at what the club did last year and what they have done in their history and it's a big football club. For myself, I want to try and step forward when I do move on in my own coaching career.

"When I left Hearts and went to Finland, it was probably a step back in standard but a step forward in terms of the role because I was a first-team coach and then going in as an assistant.

"I look at coming here as a definite step up in standard and the role is the same as assistant manager. It's a positive step. The league is at a good standard now and there are plenty of quality players in it."

Daly retains ambitions of going out as a number one himself with the journey of his good friend Jim Goodwin, the new Aberdeen boss, serving as inspiration. For now, though, he's happy to help steer Clancy along his path.

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