21 years and still going strong; Derek Lyle’s career

Credit: Peterhead Football Club

On the 9th of October 1999, 18-year-old Derek Lyle made his first career appearance as a substitute for Partick Thistle in a 3-1 lose to Stirling Albion in the old Division 2. 21 years, 645 appearances and 182 goals later, Del is still plying his trade at League 1 side Peterhead. It is an incredible achievement and testament to how he has remained so fit and still has the desire to carry on even as he approaches 40.

Shortly after making his debut, Lyle scored his first goal, a winner against Queen of the South at Palmerston. In total, he would make 25 appearances for John Lambie’s side, however, in the 2000-01 season, Lyle struggled to break into the team and turned out for the first team just 14 times, and only twice in the new year. He also failed to hit the net in those games.

Partick won the Division 2 Championship in 2000/01, and following their promotion to Division 1, Lyle found himself down the pecking order as Lambie brought in players like Gerry Britton in the hope of firing his side to back-to-back promotions and get into the Premier League. Lyle, now 20, was loaned to Division 3 side East Stirlingshire for the first half of the 2001/02 season.

It was a tremendous success for Lyle as he scored 8 times in 12 games for The Shire. In his last game though, he was sent off for the first time in a Scottish Cup tie against Forres Mechanics, after equalising late on. He returned to his parent club in January and made two sub appearances before being sent out on loan again, this time to Division 2 side Queen of the South.

It was another good move for Del, as he made an immediate impact scoring 15 minutes into his debut. He would then make it two in two with another goal in a 6-5 win over Morton. His 6 goals in 13 helped the Doonhamers to the Division 2 title, and Lyle would make the loan move permanent to the newly promoted side. Success followed in their first season in the second tier as a middle table finish was capped off by lifting the Challenge Cup. Lyle played a key part in the win, scoring in the 2-0 final against Brechin City.

The following season, 2003/04, Queens failed to defend their Challenge Cup by falling at the first hurdle and Lyle again quickly found himself on the fringes of the first team and was eventually loaned to Stirling Albion midway through the season. Lyle would prove he still had the scoring touch and found the net 10 times in his 19 appearances for Albion, including netting his first hattrick against his old club East Stirlingshire. Stirling with Lyle would end the season by gaining promotion to Division 2.

In the next two seasons, Lyle played over 50 times for Queens and established in the team, however, manager Ian McCall told the 25-year-old that he would not be first choice striker and Del would leave Queens at the end of the 2005/06 season after 5 and half years.

Dundee signed the striker in 2006 and once again, Lyle scored on his debut at Dens Park in a 3-0 win over Clyde. He would end his first season at Dens as top scorer with 15 goals in 30 games. Lyle struggled in his second season and managed only 6 goals in his 29 appearances.

Credit: Alasdair Middleton

He would sign a pre-contract against fellow promotion rivals Hamilton and it was the Accies who would join the SPL in the new season. Lyle was now playing at the top level in Scottish football for the first time in his career.

Hamilton survived relegation, but Lyle would suffer a career threatening injury in 2009 during a game against Falkirk in September. He underwent surgery and as a result, he did not play again in the 2009/10 season. He signed a short-term deal in August 2010 and played just 5 times before his release at the end of December.

Lyle then moved to Morton for the remainder of the 2010/11 and managed to score his first goal in over two years. At the start of the 2011/12 season, Del moved back to New Douglas Park on a half season deal but could only manage one goal in 9 games. In January 2012, Lyle signed for Cowdenbeath who would go on to become Division 2 Champions.

Following his release at Cowdenbeath, Lyle joined Queen of the South for the second time. The 2012/13 season was highly successful for both Lyle and Queens as they would complete a league and Challenge Cup double. Del would lift the Challenge cup against his old side Partick Thistle after a thrilling penalty shoot out win. Lyle remains the only player in the club’s history to win four senior medals.

Credit: Queen of the South FC

The following five seasons would see Lyle him score his 100th goal for Queens in 2016, as well as making it to fourth on the all-time scorers list for the Doonhamers. He would finish his second spell at Palmerston with 117 goals in 365 competitive games. In June 2017, Lyle was rewarded with a testimonial against a Rangers Legends XI.

The 37-year-old signed for Jim McInally’s Peterhead in 2018 and his ten goals helped the Blue Toon to the League Two title. Lyle would score a further 6 goals in his second season at Balmoor and signed a new deal to play in the 2020/21 season.

Del has started making moves for after his playing career finishes as he takes on coaching at Peterhead, specifically with the forwards. Players like Ben Armour, Isaac Layne and Steven Boyd can only benefit from Lyles experience. He has already played ten times in this shortened season and will continue to play on passed his 40th Birthday in February, as he is one of the fittest players at the club.

Derek Lyle’s career has had many ups and many downs, but one thing is clear, there is no denying his determination and desire to turn adversity into success. What will be next for Lyle? Who really knows, but a career in coaching or management must be on the cards.

Written by Colin Byiers

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