Paul McGrath - Back from the Brink - Xtratime Community
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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old October 26th, 2006, 11:06 Thread Starter
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Paul McGrath - Back from the Brink

England boss Steve McClaren figures prominently in one of Paul McGrath's memories of his Derby County days.

McGrath spent eight months with the Rams in the mid-Nineties and admits to being shocked at how some of the players treated McClaren, assistant to manager Jim Smith at the time.

"Steve was a nice guy, an innovative coach and I liked him but a few of the players were utterly dismissive of him," claims McGrath.

"They wouldn't have known, of course, that they were dealing with a future England manager. It showed.

"He never quite seemed comfortable with the industrial banter of the changing room. Some of them devoured him."

McClaren was a big influence on Derby during their early Premiership years before leaving to work under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

Recollections of McGrath's short spell with the Rams appear in his autobiography 'Back from the Brink' - a remarkable book telling a remarkable story.

A hidden childhood spent in Dublin's orphanages, the mother whose love for her son never died and his emotional breakdown as a teenager coupled with a distinguished playing career framed by alcoholism, failed marriages and attempts to end his life make for a heart-breaking, harrowing read.

The Republic of Ireland international had already made his name as a classy defender with Manchester United and Aston Villa by the time he signed for Derby in October 1996.

He was a 36-year-old with a history of knee trouble and off-the-field excesses but a gamble became an inspired short-term signing by Smith.

"Even though I was getting on, I was starting to enjoy my football more," said McGrath.

"I also had a desire to play things by the book. To stay sober. To be the best I possibly could be."

McGrath was recommended to Smith by Jim Walker, who made 55 appearances for the Rams under Brian Clough.

As Villa's physio, Walker worked closely with McGrath. He knew the player's strengths and weaknesses as well as anybody.

McGrath describes Walker as his "confidant and saviour - a guardian angel over his career".

Walker said: "I knew Paul could do a huge job for Derby. I just said to Jim Smith 'Look, he might not train from one end of the week to the other but, come Saturday, he will be your best player."

McGrath did little training between matches but his knowledge and presence on matchdays as one of three centre-backs was invaluable.

He made 26 appearances in 1996-97 as the Rams finished 12th in their first season in the Premiership and their last at the Baseball Ground.

There were victories over his old clubs, United and Villa. Derby won at Old Trafford, with Paulo Wanchope scoring a wonder goal and they knocked Villa out of the FA Cup, a success which left McGrath with "very mixed emotions" because of his affection for Villa.

When his time at Derby is discussed one particular incident in a game at Wimbledon often gets an airing.

The score was 1-1 when McGrath's pass presented the ball to quick Wimbledon striker Efan Ekoko.

"He was straight in on goal and it looked game over," said McGrath. "I chased frantically and just about toe-poked the ball back to our keeper. I got to it through sheer terror. Some people afterwards lauded it as 'classic' defending. It wasn't - it was firefighting, something I was having to do a little too often for comfort."

McGrath enjoyed playing for Smith: "Jim treated me like an adult.

"He was brilliant to deal with, real old-school. Human.

"On Saturdays, wearing the white of Derby, I'd go to war."

Smith decided not to renew McGrath's contract at the end of the campaign. McGrath could see the logic given his age and creaking knees but was still disappointed.

Those who know McGrath, those who have played with and against him, and those who reported on his football career speak of a likeable, quietly-spoken, shy individual who shunned the adulation and limelight.

In his words, he would rather spend a day in the dentist's chair than walk into a crowded room.

Graham Taylor, who managed him at Villa, said: "Paul wanted to be one of the best players in the world but still be able to walk down O'Connell Street in Dublin unrecognised by anyone."

As the book's launch literature says, McGrath's autobiography is not just a football story, it is an extraordinary human story.

Back From The Brink: The autobiography of Paul McGrath is published by Century priced Â18.99.


I'm deffinately going to get this book, might have too put it on my list too Santa

Originally Posted by Nico
I dont belive in jinxing mate, I do belive in playing at home with a 2-0 advantage against a team which I cant see scoring 2 goals!

Of course, if we lose, I'll never admit it was me who wrote this.
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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old October 26th, 2006, 13:14
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Hmmmm I might to have think about investing in this book, looks very interesting and honest about his career!!!!!!!
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