Danny Swanson traumatised by death of best pal Shaun Woodburn
HIBS star Danny Swanson has spoken for the first time of his devastation at losing best pal Shaun Woodburn in a street brawl.
The midfielder was planning a fun-filled year with his friend before the New Year’s Day tragedy.
Father-of-one Shaun lay dying in Danny’s arms after being felled by a punch outside Gladstones bar in Leith. A 17-year-old youth is awaiting sentence for culpable homicide.
“We’d planned to do so much in 2017,” said Danny. “We were going to go golfing, go on holiday. We had said 2017 would be the year we would do more together. Do new things. And just a few hours into the new year, Shaun was gone.
“I still can’t believe it. I think about him every day.
“He had been a massive part of my life since we were boys.”
Danny’s younger brother Louis, meanwhile, dedicated his goal for Lothian Thistle in the Scottish Cup second round on Saturday to Shaun.
Former Bonnyrigg Rose defender Shaun had celebrated Hogmanay and welcomed in the New Year with friends, including Danny, at Gladstones bar.
But then a fatal blow by the then 16-year-old boy on a violent rampage across the capital with a gang of youths changed everything.
The killer, now 17, admitted assaulting five other strangers in random attacks. His co-accused, 19-year-old Mohammed Zakariyah, will be sentenced at the same time for two assaults and a breach of the peace.
Danny said: “I miss Shaun massively. We spoke almost every day, usually on group chat. He was a genuine guy, really quiet and gentle.
“He just lived for his daughter, she was his world. And Lauren, his sister, they were so close.
“Every one of us feels his loss in different ways. I lost my phone on holiday and my immediate panic was losing his texts and WhatsApp messages.
“Thankfully, I got it back and I read them a lot. It helps to feel like he’s still around.”
Danny said the pair met as teenagers at Leith Athletic football club where his dad John, who owns Gladstones, was the coach.
He said: “We just hit it off and from that point on we were together every day. He was always round at my house, we went on holiday together with parents and just mucked around as kids do.
“He was the quiet one but he loved a laugh. He was very quick-witted, usually just one word from him was all that was needed.”
And Danny revealed the pain of knowing Shaun will never see him wear the famous green of Hibs, having signed for their boyhood club in the summer.
He said: “Shaun was a Hibby. It was the team we supported as boys and he would have been delighted for me.
“He always wanted me to play for Hibs. I’ve no doubt he would have been at Easter Road every week watching.
“Every goal I score will be for Shaun. I can see his smile at that.
“My first goal for Hibs (against Livingston last month) was dedicated to Shaun. Every one is for him but that one was special. His dad Kevin was there, as was my whole family. Shaun would have been there, he should have been there. That’s what makes this so hard.
“The worst thing about what happened to Shaun was because he was so quiet. He never got in bother or got involved.”
Danny thanked Hibs manager Neil Lennon and everyone at the club has supported him throughout the ordeal, including when he had to give evidence at the trial.
And he recalled his last moments with Shaun. “None of us expected to be told he wasn’t going to make it.
“I visited him in hospital every day until they turned his life support off. It didn’t feel real.
“His family were going through hell and still, just like Shaun would have wanted, they thought of others and donated his organs.
“That’s what Shaun was like. Thoughtful and caring.
“People throw the word ‘legend’ around but he truly was one-of-a-kind. I will miss him for the rest of my life.”