Often Partisan

Dave Langan “Running Through Walls” Book Review

I remember when I signed for Birmingham, Jim Smith said to me ‘I’ll give you the same as what you are on at Derby plus £50 appearance money every game.’

When Dave Langan signed for Blues in the summer of 1980 for a club record £350,000 from Derby County that was the extent of the negotiations between player and manager in a motorway cafe. A right-back, Langan made over 100 appearances for Blues before injury forced him to miss 18 months of his career and ruined his knees forever. In his book “Running Through Walls”, Langan tells a story of how a naïve lad from Ringsend, Dublin became Blues record signing, played 26 times for the Republic of Ireland and a League Cup winner before injury and depression hit and left him racked with pain and for a time homeless.

At the time Langan signed for Blues I was still in nappies so I’ll let you read the words of an OP reader who remembers Dave in his pomp.

I think what’s hard to explain about Langan is what a ground breaking player he was for us. Prior to him we’d had stalwart right-backs like Pendrey, Malcolm Page, Ray Martin…real solid pros but barely crossed the halfway line. Langan was the first of our “modern” full-backs. We were a bit in the doldrums (when is it ever different) at the time. The seventies entertainers had been sold off and finally Francis went. We were relegated and although we came back up we weren’t exactly pulling up trees. When Jim Smith spent about 30% of the Francis fee on a right-back, prior to our first season back in division one as it was then, it seemed a bit of a luxury. But the fans fell in love with him instantly – and with the emergence of Mark Dennis on the left, we suddenly had as good a pair of attacking full-backs as anybody…and better than most. A real buzz used to go up when either of them got the ball and started steaming forward.
Dennis was more of a Rolls Royce, gliding forward – still one of the quickest full-backs I’ve ever seen. Langan was more of a tank, socks slipping down, shirt hanging out…it didn’t matter where he received the ball – his next stop was firing a cross into the opposition area, and his delivery was superb. His non-stop effort and determination to attack was exactly what Blues fans did and still do love to see.

You can’t help but feel for Langan whilst reading the book – injury rehabilitation techniques were still antiquated in the 80’s and you have to sympathise with him as he struggled to cope with a crippling injury to his knee, having it iced and injected with cortisone so he could carry on giving his all for the royal blue shirt. When he finally did break down it wasn’t just injury that got him – the black demons of depression circled Dave and he sunk into a pit of despair whilst he tried to deal with his whole footballing dream collapsing around him.

Self-pity isn’t for Langan either; he’s almost relentlessly hard on himself for not dealing with the pressures of football better yet I think he’s almost too hard – the lack of support from the club is all too clear and there are surely lessons to be learnt from the struggles Dave had.

What is harder to take is that after all his efforts Dave has been left in constant pain from his knee and back – and coming from an era when football players didn’t earn much more than the common man he doesn’t have the luxury of a wad of cash to ease that pain at all. Whilst it could all be self-pitying and cloying Langan doesn’t come across that way; despite all the pain and the hardships he’s had to suffer particular after retiring from football you know that he’d have done it all again just for the joy of being able to play and to be able to entertain the fans, whichever team he was with.

Dave will be signing his book at the Blues superstore on Saturday from 11 to 12 and at the Royal George from 12 to 1. I’d really recommend this book as an early Christmas present to all bluenoses, particularly those who stood on the terraces in the late seventies and early eighties and who will remember what a fine player Langan truly was.

The book can also be bought online here.


25 Responses to “Dave Langan “Running Through Walls” Book Review”

  • Letsby Avenue says:

    Thanks for this review AJ.

    And Thank You a million times Dave Langan.
    We stood a bit straighter or leant forward in our seats whenever Langan had the ball.
    Most importantly he was a player every fan trusted.

    If he ever made a mistake or a slip, I honestly can not remember it.

    Hint dropping about pressies starts now


  • skareggae72 says:

    A bit before my time this,but it sounds as though the guy actually needs the money,unlike some players like Beckham etc who bring out a wad of books.

    I am sure that if you mentioned depression in the hard drinking/macho 80`s football world you would have been told to ‘sort yourself out` or ‘get a grip’ or even have been passed another crate of lager to polish off, so it was probably not mentioned,although clearly it is still not perfect today with the recent Gary Speed issues.

  • Tony D says:

    Dave, If you are reading this, know how much pleasure you gave me and so many Bluenoses during your time on the playing staff. One of the most fondly remembered Blues right backs. No one can ever take that away from you.

  • Tonytiler says:

    I remember going to leicester away in the early 80s and he was sitting amongst the fans. He was a true gent and loved the blues. Great player. Great bloke.

  • DudeAbides says:

    The best right back to ever play for Blues, i used to love watching him play for us.

  • Flying Doctor says:

    Can’t remember the opposition, but it was the early days of Ron Saunders time. We’d just got a penalty and none of the players wanted to take it. In barges Dave, grabs hold of the ball, puts it on the spot. A cheer from the Kop immediately goes up. He then smacks it into the top corner of the net. He showed the rest of the team what was required. The chant starts “We want 11 David Langans”. A great and inspirational player.

    • RichardM says:

      I remember it well – against Luton Town. We’d just gone 2-0 down (thanks to the inept goalie Jim Blyth early in the second half). Suddenly Blues got a penalty, Kevin Dillon stepped forward but his penalty was saved by a Jake Findlay – a least two yards off his goal line. The ref ordered a re-take but you could see in Dillon’ face it he wasn’t up to it – almost appealing to the rest of the team for someone to take it. No nonsense Langan grabbed the ball of him, stuck it on the spot, and nearly bust the back of the net with his shot! Didn’t do much good sadly, still ended up losing 2-3…….

  • Coleshill-blue says:

    Quite easily the best full back I’ve seen in the royal blue shirt in 35 years of following. I need this book!

  • Paul Carter - The Voice Of Reason says:

    I’d agree that Dave is the best right back I’ve seen in my time (late 60s) although we’ve had a few good lefties.

    As the poster above said Dave was all about bombing forward, shrugging off challenges and firing in crosses but tackled like a demon too. Before that you’d rarely see one of our full backs in the opposition half.

    I will be making a special trip to the George on Saturday to meet Dave, introduce my son to one of our greats and buy his book (plus tip)

    Keep Right On Dave, you have many friends in Birmingham.

  • matt says:

    Before my time, but sounds like a top player for us.

    Of our recent right backs I thought rowett was excellent, thought he could’ve played for England in that position, until he got delusions he was a centre back.

    Kenna and Carr were more than decent too.

    Book sounds interesting anyway

  • Masaccio says:

    I had the pleasure of interviewing Dave whilst researching a where are they now feature for ‘The Heathen’ fanzine. He was a car park attendant at the time and was very down and maybe slightly bitter about how his time in the game ended. He had loads to say about the blues and I think he enjoyed his stay.

  • swissjonny says:

    What a player.I watched him as a kid.Totaly agree with Letsbys observations.Thanks Dave.

  • Glosbigblue says:

    An absolute legend. Sure he was a great attacking full back but boy could he defend too. As honest as the day is long and never gave anything less than his all for the Blues. A great player for Derby and Oxford too btw. Messrs Rowett, Kenna et al seriously weren’t a patch on this guy though Carr in his pomp is a good, if slightly pale, immitation.

  • James says:

    I was born in 79 so haven’t witnessed this bloke in royal blue shirt. The book looks class though so that’s my dads xmas present sorted!


  • Top bloke Dave Langan. Quick attacking full-back and when he takled he meant it.

  • Oldbluenose says:

    As a yougster, [ Mid 50’s ] I had the privelige of seeing some decent right backs through the years, !!

    The great Jeff Hall, was the first, Would you also believe, ?, Stan Lynn, [ ex Villian ], and many others in those early decades, BUT David langan, was the first of the ” attacking full backs that I can recall, — Great bloke indeed, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

  • Blueboy88 says:

    Dave Lanagan was a top top full back , talented , whole hearted & played for the shirt with pride.
    Played in a great back four with Joe Gallagher , Colin Todd & Mark Dennis..
    I really enjoyed the Jim Smith era , with all the above & Frank Worthington, Archie Gemmill , Willie Johnston etc…

    It was also a fruitful time for the Youth policy as well, with Dennis , Dillion , Van Den Hawe , Broadhurst , Coton , & Handysides coming through the ranks.

  • AR says:

    I don’t think Garry Pendrey was a right-back and Malcolm Page was only ever a stand-in full-back. But though I don’t disagree that Dave Langan was an outstanding player for us, he was by no means the first attacking full-back which we had. Bert Murray was not only our first attacking full-back but I would think almost certainly the first in England. He was a member of the attractive Stan Cullis team and was signed from Chelsea at the same time as Barry Bridges. Good luck to Dave Langan and I hope plenty of his books are sold.

  • Woodlands says:

    I met Dave about 4 years ago in his job as a Caretaker/Porter in the Town Hall at Peterborough City Council. Lovely guy, ready and willing to talk to a Bluenose. Not bitter at all – spoke fondly of his time at St Andrews.

  • Connblue says:

    I’m looking forward to reading his book, I remember standing on the Kop watching tear up & down the wing. I wish him well.

  • Jay Sidney says:

    David Langan was the best right-back I ever saw play for Blues.

    However, the bit about Garry Pendrey being a right-back had me thinking because I recall Pendrey being a left-back (and an extremely left-sided player at that).

    • Iggy says:

      Everything said about Langan here is true – the fans really did have genuine affection for him.

      Pendrey – he was the ultimate utility player. We used to put him where he could do least damage.

      How about another great Blues defender from that era: Pat Van den Hauwe?

  • Jay Sidney says:

    Health difficulties mean I can’t get to games now but, just for old times’ sake, here’s my best ever Blues XI (in a barnstorming 4-4-2 formation, though some of the playersI have selected played in the days of the old 2-3-5 formation):

    David Seaman, David Langan, Steve Bruce, Colin Todd, Mark Dennis, Howard Kendall, the late Johnnie Vincent, Jimmy Greenhoff, Trevor Francis, Barry Bridges, Frank Worthington.

    An XI to pretty-much match the above (4-4-2):

    Tony Coton, Gary Rowett, Kenny Burns, Michael Johnson, Julian Dicks, Mark Ward, Christophe Dugarry, Barry Horne, Peter Ndlovu, Bob Latchford, Bob Hatton.

    Serious stuff!

  • Jay Sidney says:

    That first Blues XI I offered up should have read 4-2-4 formation (yes, 4 strikers!)

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