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Still Getting His Kicks
With his debut album about to hit the racks, football legend Paul McGrath talks to Jackie Hayden about music, how soccer has lost its physical side, the fate of the current Irish team, his bust up with Alex Ferguson, the contrasting managerial styles of Giovanni Trapattoni and Jack Charlton, John Fashanu breaking his teeth, Norman Whiteside climbing out windows, and laughing at Vinnie Jones.
Jackie Hayden, 07 Oct 2011
When you get together do you relive the highlights of the past, telling each other the old war stories?
Not all that much, although we might talk about some of the capers we got up to here or there, like climbing out of windows or some of the laughs we had. There were always jokers in teams doing mad stuff. I think playing was more fun back then than it is now. There were things you could get away with back then you couldn’t try now. Too many people watching you!
Why would somebody be climbing out windows?
Well Norman did that quite a bit! And maybe I did too!
What would be the point?
Probably to sneak off somewhere to have a few pints without the boss knowing about it.
I get the impression you’re not a big fan of today’s style of soccer?
No. I think a lot of the fun has gone out of the game. There’s too much money around it. Don’t get me wrong. I’d be perfectly happy to be playing now for the financial rewards. The physicality has been taken out of the game almost totally. If you so much as touch a goalkeeper it’s a free. I used to enjoy maybe going up to head a ball against a keeper, that physical challenge. Maybe he’d come out and, going for the ball, he’d punch your head and it’d hurt. Or maybe you’d beat him to it and score. It was a physical sport. Now it’s all too nice. I used to enjoy getting stuck in.
Who did you enjoy getting stuck into?
There were quite a few of them and for different reasons. John Fashanu was always a challenge to play against. He once broke my mouth in a tackle, demolished a few of my teeth. I don’t know what that was about.
Would you hold grudges against him for that, like maybe get him back next time à la Roy Keane?
No, I never carried grudges like Roy. For me, once the game was over that was the end of it. We’d go and have a few pints together and put the match behind us.
Would you blame the referees for the way the game has changed?
Well, the referees are only implementing the instructions that are handed down to them from FIFA and Sepp Blatter...