THE doctor’s advice was delivered then promptly ignored. Dean Shiels was 11 and being dispensed with a rather unwanted prognosis on the childhood accident which left him with no sight in his right eye. “At 11 years of age, the doctors said to him that Dean should probably just go into recreational football,” his dad Kenny recalled to Herald Sport last night. “So what he has achieved is enormous, immense really. Fans don’t always respect that.”

Fast forward 21 years, and this quietly-impressive Northern Irishman’s football career has been anything but a stroll in the park. First it was out to Arsenal, then arguably the most vaunted youth system on these islands. When Tony Mowbray-era Hibs gave him the chance of first-team football in 2004, his form there was such that, even at the age of 20, he had found a berth in Lawrie Sanchez’s Northern Ireland squad.

But that long-forgotten facial injury was about to flare up again. Stricken by headaches brought on by a build-up of blood vessels and unable to train, once again he sought professional opinion this time 11 years ago. He was told that an operation to remove the eye completely was now necessary. And that he should forget about the rest of the season.

Rather than drop back then into recreational football, Shiels continued to put such setbacks in his stride. He returned to first team duty with Hibs, then it was off to Doncaster Rovers and Kilmarnock – where he won the 2012 League Cup final. In four seasons at Rangers he made around 120 appearances, even if he wished he would have started more. Periods at Dundalk, Edmonton and now Dunfermline at the age of 32 prove that clubs out there are still more than keen to have his services.

It isn’t just the doctor’s wishes which have been ignored, though. At the time of that eye removal operation in January 2006, Shiels was quoted – rather reluctantly – thus: “While it is important the fans understand the reason I am not involved at the moment, I don’t want people to make too big a deal of this. I will be very happy if I am just allowed to get on with the operation and then get back to playing football once I have fully recovered.”

Sadly, this has been the opposite of the case. Whether it was a couple of St Mirren fans in the front row of the old Love Street at Paisley, or Hearts fans during the Edinburgh derby, one persistent, albeit usually background refrain through Shiels’ career has been supporters abusing him for playing with a glass eye, then their clubs apologising shamefacedly afterwards. Anyone who thought that changes in the political climate might render such incidents more infrequent would have had such notions thoroughly disabused by this recent turn of events in the powder keg setting of the Kincardine grudge match between Falkirk and Dunfermline.

The on-field incidents which saw Falkirk’s Kevin O’Hara and Joe McKee banned for eight and four matches respectively following an Irn Bru cup match in October were bad enough, but when supporters chant abuse about it and go to the lengths of buying rubber eyeballs to throw onto the pitch it paints a fairly sorry picture about Scottish football.

“It has been horrible to watch,” Kenny Shiels told Herald Sport yesterday. “Obviously there is the rivalry there between the two clubs but Dean has been through that kind of thing before in the Edinburgh derby and stuff like that but the Hearts fans didn’t go out and buy eyeballs or anything like that. It was just in the actual game where they might give the opposition players some stick.

“I spoke to Dean last night (Tues) and he wasn’t happy about it, but he doesn’t really speak too much about these things,” added Shiels snr.

“The authorities need to punish someone heavily for this kind of thing, make an example of them, because rapping people over the knuckles clearly isn’t working. Whatever you want to call it, this has been going on since 2006. I even remember way back with the St Mirren fans.”

Bad blood tends to be taken for granted when it comes to Falkirk versus Dunfermline, but some of the participants in this equation have a bit of previous. Shiels worked with McKee as a player back in his short spell in charge of Morton, and would also have had a knowledge of O’Hara from his time in charge of the Forth Valley Academy, which Falkirk announced recently that they were to stop funding. Both were serving their suspensions during Tuesday’s match.

“That whole area for for me is synonymous with people fighting the battles of the past, being brave and courageous, and now you’ve got people from the same neighbourhood, being so cowardly,” said the Derry City manager. “Going to shops to buy eyeballs, it is all so premeditated.

“Falkirk should have control of that, they should be controlling their own supporters,” he added. “And there are more than just a few of these supporters. Apparently they were up in Inverness earlier in the season singing songs about Dean, a guy who plays for another club entirely. What does that tell you? It is hatred, pure and simple.”

There are two sides to every story, of course, and for every Falkirk fan prepared to throw an eyeball onto a field of play you will find thousands who take a very dim view of it all. Having issued a swift apology to Dunfermline on the night, club were last night poring over their CCTV footage in an attempt to try to discover the miscreants.

“I only learned about it last night when I got home,” said Jimmy Rae, of the Falkirk Supporters Association. “It is up to the club to sort it out. But I would go as far as to saw that it is shocking, utterly shocking.

“We go on quite a bit about the behaviour of the Old Firm and suddenly we are no better, we are getting tarnished. There is a good Falkirk support out there but unfortunately there is a minority, and I mean a small minority, who have created a very big problem.”

Rae takes issue with Shiels’ assertion elsewhere that chairman Margaret Lang should have been more proactive in criticising McKee and O’Hara, a rather difficult position as he protested the former’s innocence to the last. “I wouldn’t say that - I think she did what she had to do,” said Rae. “But you can break someone’s leg in football and still not get an eight game ban.”