Jim Lauchlan on Rugby Park to rigger’s journey as former Kilmarnock and Dundee United man battles the elements of life after football
A soaked Jim Lauchlan stands on the back deck of the Seven Falcon.
The wind is howling and he has just been knocked down by an icy North Sea wave that took his breath away.
Looks like he just got punched by a heavyweight boxer.
Water does not scare him. But then, the reality of being an off-shore rigger on a huge ship dawns on him.
And a new respect for the sea was born.
Fast forward a few years.
He’s walking along Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro and there’s an 11-a-side football game lit up.
There is even a referee and linesmen.
Lauchlan is impressed with the standard on display. His buddies on the ship know he was a pro.
But when he throws a ball on the soft golden sand, he can barely trap it.
They think he’s kidding them over a 17-year career in Scotland and Ireland at clubs like Kilmarnock, Dundee United, Ross County and Dundee.
The truth is, both of these incidents couldn’t be further from Lauchlan’s previous life as a player.
But in 2012, he effectively turned his back on the game he loves to help support his family.
Coaching part-time or trying his hand at running a lower league wasn’t going to pay the bills.
Instead, Lauchlan signed up for an off-shore training course in Aberdeen.
And before he knew it, he saw parts of the world he never dreamed of going to.
While his wife Susan runs their Subway franchise in Shettleston, he spends four weeks on, four weeks off the ship Seven Falcon.
He had to sacrifice a family Christmas with children Sophie and Marcus to earn a living. And he will soon return to Norway.
But Lauchlan is the same as he was as a talented centre-back for Killie or United. Vocal, organized, disciplined, professional.
He was a character in all lodges.
And it looks like those qualities should be used again in a football environment.
But for now, Lauchlan is happy at sea. Except when he’s been swept away by one of those surprise waves.
Yet, incredibly, he says that if he hadn’t been a footballer, he could have operated UNDER water.
He said Mailsport “Working on the aft deck of the ship, he’s open to the elements as you can imagine.
“Once I ended up getting soaked after being swallowed by a wave.
“He was a thug who came and knocked me down. My boots were full of water and I had to change from head to toe.
“It was the first time I was hit. I am a good swimmer with no fear or water at all. I love it. I’ll swim in the sea, no problem.
“But after that I realized I had to show respect to the sea. It was like taking a superior cut from Mike Tyson.
“I was lying on the ground, out of breath. The North Sea is freezing, absolutely Baltic.
“I’ve had ice baths after games as a footballer, but it was the coldest ever.
“Fortunately, I never felt in danger. It’s the safest it can be now.
“But the ship took another hit one day which actually broke our helideck.
“We have containers that are welded on deck – but they were upside down.
“We have satellite divers with us who get to work on the seabed.
“Because of Covid, they are currently being treated as Premier League footballers. No one is allowed near them.
“They are on rock star salaries and deservedly so.
“They are underwater riggers, doing what we do on deck.
“If I hadn’t played football and gone offshore on a dive boat, I would have been a sit-down diver, 100 per cent.
“I missed the boat with my age but if I had started doing this when I was younger I would be in the water.”
Lauchlan had a few brief forays into Europe as a player and won a brace with Sligo Rovers after crossing the Irish Sea.
But when he took on this job as a rigger, he never imagined he would see one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
He says: “I went as far as Brazil, I spent five weeks there.
“I was able to see the sights, like Sugar Loaf, Copacabana and Ipanema beaches – and the Christ the Redeemer statue.
“We were actually there for the start of the World Cup in 2014.
“Because the carnival was on, we couldn’t take anything on the ship.
“So we managed to get out and see the place, which was a great experience.
“It’s a dangerous place and life is cheap there. One day a guy drove by on a moped and grabbed one of our boy’s chains from his neck.
“But it was great for me to see. The Copacabana has floodlights on it and they had 11-a-side football matches. It was amazing.
“I’m an ex-pro but I couldn’t even control the ball on the sand. It was moving everywhere – I ended up flying in the tackles!
“The boys were asking me if I could have played – but I would have been on my ass all day.”
Despite his career change, Lauchlan has not lost his passion for football.
His off-shore blunderer remembers him playing at Ibrox. And his fellow riggers get nothing else on the ship’s television.
But the 44-year-old – who has already been trained to be a referee – cannot plan a return to action as long as he is comfortable at sea.
Lauchlan said: “I was a good leader as a player, always captain or vice-captain – so I thought I would go into football management.
“I just stumbled on a different path.
“People don’t look at the financial side. I was offered the job of gaffer Stenhousemuir.
“But the money that was pouring in as a part-time manager didn’t justify me being away seven days a week.
“I couldn’t live on my savings to go and become a manager. Not with a young family. I wasn’t ready to do this.
“I didn’t know anything about offshore rigging before I started.
“But I have a good Glesga language on me, I work hard and I want to learn.
“When I’m on the ship, I still train hard six days a week.
“I take a Saturday off because the food is good off Saturday – you get a steak on board.
“We have a gym, a sauna, a TV room, the cabins, the kitchen where we feed – the ship is huge.
“When I’m there, I spend the four weeks working, eating, training, sleeping – and rehearsing.
“The hardest thing for anyone is to be away from their family. But I’m doing it FOR my family.
“I miss football. The boys on the bridge are crazy because the only thing I will put on TV is football.
“They’ll be like, ‘Jimmy, would you watch ANY football game’? I will watch every game – even women’s football now.
“It’s ingrained in me.
“Of course, I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t give the management a chance.
“But I needed more than football could provide.
“My offshore manager, Paul, on an old ship called the Seven Oceans, was a big Rangers man.
“Immediately, he told me that he subscribed to Ibrox.
“Paul said, ‘I remember you kicking a few attackers in the park against us.
“I won at Ibrox with Kilmarnock and Dundee United at the time.
“But that was in the past. I don’t see myself returning to football.