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Paul Kimmage meets Jason McAteer: Why Roy Keane is still a mystery

Jason McAteer is back working with Liverpool and loving life again after a battle with depression, even though he still doesn’t get on with Roy Keane

Jason McAteer relaxes on the beach at Saipan prior to the 2002 World Cup. Photo by David Maher / Sportsfile

Paul Kimmage

In the build-up to last night’s game against Belgium to mark the centenary of the FAI, Stephen Kenny and Seamus Coleman were asked by RTE’s Tony O’Donoghue to name their greatest Boy in Green. The manager went for Liam Brady. The captain was torn between Damien Duff, Richard Dunne, Robbie Keane, Shay Given, Roy Keane and Packie Bonnar.

It was no great surprise that Jason McAteer didn’t feature.

And yet.

Almost three decades have passed since his debut for Ireland on March 23, 1994. He had been born and raised in Liverpool and had never set foot in the 32 counties before, but it wasn’t long before we had taken to him. He could play, obviously, but it was his personality that set him apart. He was open, honest, funny and inherently decent.

And yet.

He had played for Bolton and Liverpool and Blackburn and was about to join Sunderland when I interviewed him for the first time. It was a month after his iconic goal against Holland in September 2001, and I was researching a major feature — ‘Inside The Team That Mick Built’ — and planned to interview the manager and every player in the squad.

And I did: Mick McCarthy, Shay Given, Ian Harte, Steve Staunton, Richard Dunne, Gary Kelly, Matt Holland, Kevin Kilbane, Damien Duff, Robbie Keane, Niall Quinn, Alan Kelly ... And yet.

It was Jason who made it. He was the heartbeat of the team.

A year later we collaborated on a diary for the World Cup that was absolutely compelling. He was brilliant to work with, a ghost writer’s dream, and it remains one of the best summers of my career.

And yet.

We didn’t speak for 20 years.

So there was a lot of catching up to do when we met recently in Manchester. He is married to a beautiful woman, Lucy, is father to three smashing kids — Harry (21), Logan (7) and Teddy (4) — and has reinvented himself as a pundit and commentator.

And yet.

He hadn’t changed.

1. The Mersey Tunnel

Former player Jason McAteer has opened up about how he suffered with a “bad bout of depression” when he retired from football and contemplated suicide while driving through the Mersey Tunnel. The ex-Reds midfielder told Ryan Tubridy on last night’s The Late Late Show in Ireland that he found the transition when he retired from professional football in 2007 difficult.

“It’s like a light switch the day you finish. You go home and there’s nothing there. You’re not going in the next day. You’re friends are not there … and, it’s very, very difficult and … yeah … I suffered from a bad bout of depression to be fair … I got to a point where I was a real mess.

“I remember one particular time when I was driving through the Mersey Tunnel to see Harry [his son] and pick him up from school. I just thought I could end this all now … I could throw this car now and absolutely quit on everything.”

Liverpool Echo

October 1, 2016

Paul Kimmage: Let’s start with a photo you posted recently on your Twitter account. Is that Jurgen Klopp giving you a hug?

Jason McAteer: (Laughs) Yeah.

PK: Where was that?

JM: Pitch-side at Wembley after the League Cup final.

PK: Who are the other guys?

JM: Robbie [Fowler] and Peter McDowall, the presenter at Liverpool TV.

PK : How did it happen?

JM: Well, the position we had was right beside where the team were celebrating, and he’s made a bee line towards us — “Legends!” — and given me this big cuddle. I hadn’t seen him for ages with all of the Covid restrictions, so it was nice.

PK: So you have a relationship?

JM: My relationship with Jurgen is … He’s wary, because I’m in the media. Now obviously I work for the club channel so it’s slightly different, but I also work for beIN Sports and do other things, so there’s that element of detachment. Jurgen knows what he wants and plays a very good game of portraying what he wants people [to see]. He’s very driven — cross him and you’re out, but if you’re with him you get everything.

PK: Where does that leave you?

JM: He doesn’t give me everything but I think he likes me. When we’re on tour he keeps his distance, but he’s always very respectful: “How are you?” So you know where you stand with him. It’s interesting watching how he reacts to people. We have a cameraman, Ricky — a bit of a scallywag but a great lad — and Jurgen will go for a pint with him. Like, if Ricky was in here now having a smoke and a pint, there’s every chance Jurgen would walk over and have a smoke and a pint with him.

PK: Really?

JM: We were on Tour in America [July 2019] with Jamie Webster [a folk singer from Liverpool], and he gets a call in his room from Jurgen: “Come on down, we’re in this pub.” So Jamie goes down and has a pint with Jurgen! He wouldn’t do that with us, but it’s fascinating watching him. I was in Switzerland when we lost the Europa League final to Sevilla [in 2016] and went back to the hotel after the game. The club had hired a room to cover all eventualities, so there was going to be a party if we won, and a get-together if we lost.

PK: Sure.

JM: So we lose, and the players come back to the hotel and amble down to the room one by one. All of the staff are there and the team behind the team — ticketing, commercial, some partners, us lot — and Jurgen walks onto the stage and gives this speech that’s straight out of Gladiator or Braveheart . “This is where it starts,” he says. “We have to feel this now and it has to be a feeling we never want again. I don’t want anyone sitting here thinking what if? We build from here.” And we partied on Jurgen’s say-so like we had won the game. It was amazing. So I’ve been very privileged and lucky to be behind the ropes.

PK: On the inside?

JM: Yeah.

PK: How did that start?

JM: My first job with the club was with Liverpool TV. I was still playing, still at Tranmere, and it was a nice, gentle reintroduction to the club because I hadn’t left on the greatest terms. That was a mistake.

PK: Signing for Blackburn?

JM: Yeah, I wish I had grinded it out for another six months because I found it difficult going back. But I started doing the TV and dropped back in and became a fan very quickly.

PK: You’re an ambassador at the club?

JM: I’m not an official ambassador; I’m not an Ian Rush or a Kenny Dalglish, but there’s a pool of ex-players — they call them ‘legends’ — used for the commitments and demands for appearances Jurgen and the players can’t fulfil, and to maximise some of the commercial opportunities. I don’t know what you’d call it … schmoozing?

PK: (Laughs) Yeah, that’s the word.

JM: It might be a dinner with Falken Tyres, or a golf day with Standard Chartered, and you get to meet all these people.

PK: And you obviously enjoy it?

JM: I love it. It’s the best job in the world. I was in Brunei, China, Qatar and India, and on my way to Philadelphia before Covid hit. It was great, I was almost addicted to it. And obviously being away so much makes the heart grow fonder, so I’d come home to Lucy [his wife] and it was like being married again.

PK: (Laughs) Or not being married again?

JM: (Laughs) Yeah.

PK: You’re still in good shape?

JM: I play a lot of golf. I walk and carry my bag, no buggy or trolley, and I’m still playing ‘Legends’ games — we’ve one coming up against Barcelona soon. So I’m running and ticking over in the gym and watching my diet. And having young kids means getting up early every morning.

PK: And you’ve still a good head of hair.

JM: (Laughs) Yeah, that helps.

PK: You actually haven’t changed a bit.

JM: I don’t know. I got away with it, finishing was tough. Really tough.

PK: That was always going to happen.

JM: Yeah, but you don’t realise how bad it is until you’re in it. It’s your whole life and it [ends] like a light switch. The training stops. Your body goes into shock. There’s no contract there.

PK: But you must have seen it coming? You know it’s going to end?

JM: You’re in denial. You don’t want to accept it. For the first three months I still lived like a footballer — trained every day, went on holiday in the pre-season, kept myself fit. And then, all of sudden, I hit this downward slope.

PK: You finished in June 2007. You

had just turned 36.

JM: Yeah.

PK: So you’re still a very young man.

JM: Yeah.

PK: And there’s no plan?

JM: No.

PK: How ‘set’ were you financially at that point?

JM: Well, the problem that happened to me was — which is where all the mental health stuff came in — I had always said to my agent ‘When I finish football I want to be comfortable, I don’t want to be scratching around.’ I had made some pragmatic investments but unfortunately, I was splitting with Harry’s mum [Lisa] at the time …

PK: You weren’t married to Lisa?

JM: No, but I wanted to make sure that Harry had the best; that his mum lived in a nice house, so that was expensive.

PK: Why didn’t you get married?

JM: I didn’t believe in it at the time, and Lisa had been married before and was in no rush.

PK: What were your reservations?

JM: My philosophy at the time was: if you love someone, you don’t really need to marry them, which was probably a bit naïve, because when you get older everything changes — your perception of things, your realisation of what matters. Back then I was living the dream: ‘What do we want to get married for? We’re happy. We live in a nice house.’ You just get on with it.

PK: It was 20 years last year since your goal against Holland. There was a lot of stuff on social media about what it meant. What did it mean to you?

JM: You want to leave a legacy, to be remembered, even if it’s for just one moment. I used to pray for that one moment, what will it be? And when it arrived it felt like [God] was looking down on me, because I was struggling at the time and it happened around people who still mean the absolute world to me —Mick Byrne, Mick McCarthy, Tony Hickey, Kells [Gary Kelly]. Aldo [John Aldridge] was in the stands …

PK: It was an amazing moment.

JM: Yeah.

PK: And when you’ve lived that moment — a high few people ever experience — what good is it six years later when you’re driving through the Mersey Tunnel with the darkest of thoughts in your head?

JM: It’s insignificant. Depression is … When you look back on it now you think ‘How did that happen? How the f**k did I get like that?’ But when you’re in it, you don’t know you’re in it. You make random, silly decisions; your thought process is emotional rather than logical. I had lost direction, I had lost a support network, I had lost a relationship …

PK: So it’s a sense of worth?

JM: It’s a sense of purpose; you’ve got to have a sense of purpose. It started grinding on me again when I stopped working and travelling during Covid. I have a friend who’s a clinical psychiatrist and I started speaking to him. ‘Who am I? What do I believe in?’ And I know that sounds a bit heavy but I kind of lost my way for a bit.

PK: I think a lot of people felt like that.

JM: (Laughs) Yeah, and then you go for a pint with Aldo and feel miles better.

PK: (Laughs) Really?

JM: Oh mate, it’s like … I love him. I proper love him. I ring him all the time.

2. Jason: The Movie

For some time now, I have been going to sleep with an idea for ‘Jason: The Movie’ floating around my head. The opening scene features a young scouser called Chrissy Reilly running down a hill in a leafy park. Chrissy’s dad, who is also Chrissy Reilly, works on the buses and has just started recruiting for a new community football team.

“What about your mate across the park?” he asks his son.


“Yeah. Give him a shout.”

So Chrissy sets off and when he arrives on Jason’s door it’s like a scene from ‘The Royle Family’. His dad is on the toilet with the paper. His mum is in the kitchen making toast. His sister is in the bathroom washing her hair. And Jason has his feet up and is watching the box.

“Do you want to play for my dad’s football team?” Chrissy asks, gasping for breath.

“Yeah. Why not?” Jason says.

And that’s how the fairytale starts. Within three years of playing for a non-league team, Jason is starring for Ireland at the World Cup.

The Secret Diary of Jason McAteer

Sunday Independent,

June 23, 2002

PK: Take me back to the start and your transformation from non-league football to the World Cup? Where were you for Italia ‘90?

JM: I was working in a pub just around the corner from where we lived. It was owned by a friend of the family and my job was to collect the glasses. I was 19, full of hormones, and the place was full of young barmaids. What’s not to like? We watched the games as we were working. I was a Liverpool fan, and was attracted to Ireland because of Aldo and Ronnie. And their journey seemed a lot of fun — the penalty save against Romania, the David O’Leary stuff. It was exciting.

PK: You couldn’t have imagined what was around the corner?

JM: Oh for f**k sake, no! I was in college studying graphic design and playing non-league football for Marine reserves. I think I had played about four or five times for the first team — it was the HMS Loans League back then. I was this wiry kid who could run all day but wasn’t suited to the physicality and the way the game was played back then; long balls … big centre-halves going through you.

PK: You graduate from the course, sign on the dole, and spend a few months with an uncle in Washington where you’re offered a soccer scholarship at a university in Ohio.

JM; Yeah, that’s right.

PK: But you return to England in December of ’91 and start playing again.

JM: Yeah, it was crazy really. I got the scholarship and had arranged to do the SATs in Manchester but I didn’t want to go back to America. I missed my mum terribly, and the family dog had died when I was away, so I went back to play for Marine and our first game is against Bolton reserves.

PK: And that’s the moment everything changes?

JM: Yeah. Phil Neal [the Bolton manager] is in the crowd. The phone rings that night and my mum takes the call, and it’s Phil Neal wanting to know what my situation is. And that was it.

PK: You sign for Bolton?

JM: Yeah, for £100 a a week. I was down to play around April [1992] but I did my hamstring, and then Phil got sacked and Bruce Rioch came in.

PK: What division were Bolton in at the time?

JM: League One. It was easy — I couldn’t believe it was that easy. In non-league football you get the shit kicked out of you, but I was playing with ‘footballers’, and thrived in an environment where I wasn’t being punched off the ball and getting two-footed here, there and everywhere.

PK: You’re on a grand a week by the end of your first season in the summer of ’93.

JM: That sounds right.

PK: And you decide to treat yourself to a new car.

JM: Yeah. There was a garage beside the snooker club at the top of the Manchester Road, and in this garage was a Lotus Elan in racing green with a black roof. I used to see it all the time. It used to wink at me every day as I was driving past and I thought, ‘I’m having that car.’ So when I got a new contract, I went straight up to the garage and wrote the guy a cheque.

PK: How much?

JM: I can’t remember … it might have been three grand at the time, but I brought it home and was really proud of it. Anyway, the next day we’re getting changed in the dressing room and Bruce Rioch comes in: ‘Whose is the Lotus Elan in the car park?’ and I’m thinking ‘Oh shit!’ because people were scared stiff of him. I was scared stiff of him — I loved him, but you didn’t want to upset him. ‘Gaffer, it’s mine.’ He says, ‘Come into the office after training. I want a word with you.’ So I’m thinking about it all during training: ‘F**k! F**k! What’s going to happen?’ And I go in and he says, ‘I’ve called the garage. Drive the car back and he’ll give you your money.’ And I’m like, ‘But gaffer!’ And he says, ‘No! Get yourself a sensible car.’ I remember driving back to the garage and the fellah laughing as I walked in. He handed me the cheque and I went to a Vauxhall garage up the road and bought a Corsa!

I wasn’t frivolous with money but I did a couple of stupid things; I was in London one time shopping with Jamie [Redknapp] and Babbsy [Phil Babb] and bought this leather coat that cost a grand. My mum went f**king ballistic. Ballistic! And I was embarrassed, to be honest. Money was really tight in our house and you appreciated everything you got. And I’m still like that now.

PK: What about the effects of stardom?

JM: I never had a sense of that until I played for Ireland.

PK: Give me a moment the penny dropped?

JM: It was a Take That concert in Dublin after the World Cup [September 3, 1994]. I was with Gary [Kelly] and Phil and before they came onto the stage we were spotted in the crowd and everyone turned and started looking at us. It was unreal. We became pin-ups. We had this ‘superstar’ status — The Three Amigos — and didn’t want for anything.

PK: Your first cap for Ireland was a friendly against Russia at Lansdowne Road in March ’94.

JM: Yeah.

PK: It was also your first time in Ireland.

JM : Yeah.

PK: That’s seems unbelievable, given how close Liverpool is.

JM: The first time I was on a plane was when I was 12 — my nan and grandad took me to Spain. And the only time after that was when I went to America at 19. We never travelled. Our holidays stretched to Rhyl and Talacre in North Wales.

PK: What about your ancestry? Your dad’s family, ‘the fighting McAteers’, were from Co Down, but the connection always seemed a bit … vague.

JM: To be honest, how I found out was … We had a game at Bolton and Jimmy Armfield turned up and wanted to cap me for England B. I asked Bruce about it, because he was born in England but had played for Scotland and he said, ‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘I know my grandfather is from Ireland, and I’ve got Welsh in me as well from my mum’s side.’ So Bruce said, ‘Right, I’ll notify the FAI.’ The next thing I remember is Jack turning up in the players’ lounge after a game. ‘I’ve heard you want to play for us,’ he said. ‘We’ve a game coming up against Russia.’ And that was it.

PK: What do you remember?

JM: I was sent a letter with an itinerary and was met at the airport by Mick Byrne and Tony Hickey. I was full of nerves, and I had never met Mick Byrne in my life but he gives me the biggest cuddle. We go to the airport hotel, which is not glamorous at all, and Jack’s there and you shake his hand. The next thing I remember I’m in the dressing room, starstruck, with John Aldridge and Ronnie Whelan. And you watch everything, don’t you? The banter. How they carry themselves. I asked John to write a good luck message on my shinpads, and the reason I remember that is I still have them.

PK: Really?

JM: Yeah, although I’d better not tell you what he wrote [laughs]. Then we went out and it pissed down all night and was freezing cold.

PK: And three months later you’re playing against Italy in the World Cup?

JM: Yeah, I never thought for one minute I was going to play. I mean, what [shirt] number was I? 21? I’m thinking, ‘F**k me, I’ve got no chance.’ Then Jack turns around and goes, “Warm up. You’re going on’ and it was like … standing on the edge of a swimming pool and getting a shove. Swim! And I’ve watched that game a few times since, those last 20 minutes I played, and I’m running at Maldini and going inside and it’s just …

PK: Surreal?

JM: Yeah, because if I had given it away Jack would have ripped my head off. But there was no time to be nervous or to think of any consequences. I was just thrown in at the deep end, and that’s why it was so good.

PK: I was talking to Tony Cascarino about you last week and he said, ‘Ask him about the story he tells about lining up in Giants Stadium for the national anthems.’

JM: Before the Norway game?

PK: Yeah, and I knew what he was going to say because I’d read about in your book.

I can see a whisper coming down the line, starting with the captain Andy Townsend. It must be some sort of last-minute instruction. Maybe it’s a ritual. The captain passing on some words of wisdom before a big match, something Jack told him on the way out perhaps.

Aldo gets the nod. He leans over to me. I’m ready for this. “Row F, bird with the Viking hat … Look at the size of her fucking tits. Pass it on.” I want to burst my hole laughing, but the cameras are on me. And I have to pass it on — to Roy Keane.

I’m shitting myself again. There’s no way I’m passing that on to Roy Keane seconds before the biggest game of our lives. So I just go, “Roy, manager says to keep it tight for the first 20 minutes, pass it on.”

PK: Is it true?

JM: Well, obviously it gets embellished for an audience but …

PK: Because Cas said, ‘I could see their heads turning, and knew they were saying something.’

JM: Well, the Norwegian anthem starts and you’re standing there, facing the crowd, and there’s a girl with a Viking hat on. It was hot, roasting hot, and she’s standing there with basically no clothes on and this massive pair of knockers. And it’s like: ‘Get on to her in the crowd.’ ‘Where?’ ‘There?’ And it’s embellished but that’s basically what it was — she stuck out like a sore thumb.

PK: And what’s the embellishment? That you change the line for Roy?

JM: Yeah, everyone laughs at that: “Keep it tight, Roy.”

PK: So that didn’t happen?

JM: (Laughs) No, but the bird was definitely there.

3. Ghosts of Saipan

The problem started when the ‘keepers stopped training before the five-a-side. Packie had started them a half-an-hour before and by the time the five-a-side (which is actually a nine-a-side) came around they were knackered. You need a ‘keeper when you are playing with full-sized goals so we had to put a player on each line, which is obviously not ideal.

Roy lost the head when it was over. He started with Packie and finished with Alan Kelly and it got quite heated at times. Everything is black or white with Roy: there’s no such colour as grey. He thought what had happened was wrong and said so. And I admire him for it. He wants the best for everyone in the squad. But I don’t always understand his rage. And when he got on the bus and started staring at the roof I knew we were heading for trouble.

We showered back at the hotel and spent an hour flitting about before dinner. A barbeque had been arranged and when he didn’t show I thought I’d pop up and see him in his room. I knocked at his door. He opened it and invited me in. He was brushing his teeth.

“Is everything okay,” I asked. “Not really,” he said. “Come on,” I said, “we’ve just got to get on with it now.” But he just looked at me with a smirk. “You’re not going home are you?’ “Yeah, four o’clock tomorrow.” I didn’t believe him. I thought he was taking the piss. “Yeah, good one,” I laughed. “We’ll see,” he said.

I went downstairs to find the lads. The (technical) staff were running around all over the place. Something was definitely up. It reminded me of a video I watched recently called ‘Thirteen Days’ about the Cuban missile crisis. There were hushed conversations in every corner: ‘How are we going to stop this bomb that could explode?’

Mick Byrne was sitting with Mick (McCarthy). Mick (McCarthy) looked gutted. “He’s not going home is he?” I asked. “Yeah,” he replied. “Tomorrow.”

I went back to my room and Stan was just waking up from another deep sleep. I told him what had happened. He looked at me as if his house had just been robbed. At first he was angry: ‘The f**king idiot. F**k him.” Then he decided he had to try to do something. He got up and went to see Quinny and was still out of the room when I fell asleep.”

The Secret Diary of Jason McAteer,

Sunday Independent,

May 26, 2002

PK: Do you remember meeting him for the first time?

JM: Roy?

PK: Yeah.

JM: Well, this is going to sound a bit mad but when me and [Alan] Stubbs were getting noticed at Bolton, we used to go into the office before games and ask who was coming. George Graham had come up from Arsenal a couple of times; Ron Yates had come from Liverpool, and then Alex [Ferguson] started coming. So we thought, ‘He’s not here to watch Tony Kelly! He’s watching me or you!’ So I had an idea Man United were having a sniff, then Roy got his big move and I thought …

PK: (Laughs) ‘You took him before me!’

JM: Yeah. And I remember training with him in Dublin and thinking ‘What’s all the fuss about?’ and then we played a game, a friendly, and I played centre of midfield with him and the penny dropped: ‘F**k me! This fellah is brilliant.’ He always seemed to be around; you’d give it away, he’d win it back. He was brilliant.

PK: But not a fourth amigo?

JM: No, he was different. He wrapped himself around his family, his brothers, which Gary [Kelly] did too to an extent, but Roy was wired in a different way. We did everything — The Late Late, Zig and Zag , billboards, posters, but he shied away from all that. I don’t know, you’d have to ask him, but I always felt he was jealous of our stardom, and then we went through a period when me and Babbsy were at Liverpool when he was a pain in the arse.

PK: What was that about?

JM: We had a run-in in Manchester one night in a bar. He said something to Babbsy and people got between them. Babbsy was going to fill him in … but I’ll tell you what, he was something else when you played with him. You could rely on him. He was your mate. He would fight for you for 90 minutes and then you’d come off the pitch and he didn’t want to speak to you. He wouldn’t even look at you! It was weird, strange.

PK: Yeah.

JM: The strangest time I had with him was in Saipan. We went for a long walk along the beach one morning, just the two of us, and were talking about all kinds. The next day we went for another walk and ended up having a sit-down and something to drink. Then the problems started. He had always had a temperamental relationship with Mick and we all catered for it as players. He’d throw his toys out of the pram and we’d brush it off: ‘Just let him do what he wants.’ Anyway, he starts moaning and getting intense: the training ground, the kit, the barbeque, the press, and decides he’s going home.

PK: This is two days before the blow-out with Mick?

JM: Yeah.

PK: Nobody remembers that.

JM: No. Anyway, I go into the treatment room the next morning and he’s getting strapped. ‘Thought you were going home?’ I say. ‘Just stop giving out.’ And he’s still a bit narky but it’s all very normal until the following afternoon when I walk into the lobby to find one of the journalists …

PK: It was Philip Quinn.

JM: Yeah, and he shows me an interview Roy has given to one of the papers, and when I read it I thought, ‘F**k!’ Then Mick calls the meeting and within minutes I’m thinking, ‘This has gone wrong.’ Roy pushes back his chair: ‘I’m going home! Fuck yis! This is your excuse when you get knocked out!’ And he walks out and slams the door and there’s this silence. Then Dean Kiely sticks his hand up: ‘I want to say something Mick … If you want I can do a job for you in midfield.’ Everyone laughs, and to this day I’m convinced that Roy heard the laughter, and that’s the nail in the coffin; that’s the moment he’s not coming back because that’s humiliation.

PK: Sure.

JM: But I never thought he’d go; I still thought it would be resolved. It was only when we got on the bus the next morning for the airport and his seat was empty that it sunk in: ‘F**k!’

PK: That’s 20 years ago now.

JM: Yeah.

PK: Do you ever find yourself talking about it with the old boys?

JM: No, I talk about it with everyone else but not the old boys.

PK: Why is that?

JM: I think we’re sick of it. I can’t ever remember having a conversation with any of them about it, and I know a few of them are pissed off because everybody has a different account of the moment.

PK: What moment?

JM: The meeting. I mean if it happened now, and the two of us were in the room, your account might be different than mine in ten years. It’s like the argument between [Alan] Shearer and [Michael] Owen: we all see things from our own point of view, and that’s fine, but he bears these grudges.

PK: Roy?

JM: Yeah, I was in a restaurant six weeks ago and he was sitting at another table. I walked past him twice and he didn’t lift his head; didn’t bat an eyelid. I’ve been on a plane as he was getting on, waved at him from the walkway, and he’s just stood there. Nothing. I’ve held a door for him at Wembley and he just went ‘Thanks’ and walked through. And I’m like, ‘Come on Roy! It’s been f*****g 20 years.’

PK: Would you not just say, ‘F**k you’.

JM: Yeah, I don’t know … I’ve always seen him as two people; the pantomime villain you see on the telly and the man in the restaurant laughing and joking with his family. That’s the Roy I really like, and the Roy I’d like to have a relationship with. I’m very appreciative when I meet other footballers. I love being around the older lads and give them massive respect. We’ve lived in this bubble and done things that no one gets to experience, great times, but some dark times as well, and I just think Roy loses sight of that.

PK: The shared journey?

JM: Yeah.

PK: What about your other former teammates? You’re close to John [Aldridge] obviously.

JM: Yeah.

PK: And outside of John?

JM: I spend a bit of time with Robbie [Fowler], Carso [Lee Carsley] texts me now and again … I speak to Babbsy. Kevin Kilbane lost the plot, fell in love, and went to Canada to become an ice skater, so I’ve lost touch with Kev a bit. I bumped into Robbie [Keane] in Milan the other week. I bump into Andy [Townsend] all the time, I love Andy, and Cas, and I speak to Quinny [Niall Quinn], but I’m open to all of the lads.

PK: You’ve lost Alan McLoughlin since.

JM: Yeah, very sad. I beat myself up a bit about Alan, because Quinny told me to ring him but I didn’t do it. I always have a sense of denial when lads are ill.

PK: And Jack?

JM: Yeah, that hurt. I watched the film ( Finding Jack Charlton ) and cried all the way through. It was sad to see him like that. We had a reunion for him at the K Club and he gave me a little smile.

PK: There’s no Saipan reunion planned?

JM: (Laughs) There’s nothing pencilled in, and there would be only 23 of us going if there was.

PK: You’re 50 now.

JM: Yeah.

PK: How does that feel?

JM: Funny. I guess the realism of being 50 is that you start looking at how many years you have left. So I reckon I have 25 good ones before my arse is being wiped by someone else. It’s funny, isn’t it? You come in with your arse getting wiped and go out the same way, so me and John have made a pact: Whoever goes first you have to go to their funeral — unless you’ve got an ‘earner’ for more than two grand.

PK: (Laughs) That’s brilliant.

JM: Yeah, we laugh about it all the time; if you’ve an earner worth more than two grand you have to work, otherwise you go to the funeral.

PK: What about the new Irish star at Liverpool?

JM: Caoimhín?

PK: Yeah.

JM: That’s another journey I’ve watched. I’m close with John Achterberg [the Liverpool goalkeeping coach] and remember asking him early on: ‘Has this kid got a chance?’ Because he was skinny and very shy but John always thought highly of him. Then he goes and breaks his arm on holiday and I’m thinking ‘Is this kid a bit mad?’ And John’s like, ‘No, bad timing. He’ll be fine.’ Then Alisson has a bit of a rocky spell and Jurgen gives him a chance and he does really well, the Cup run, the Champions League, and then we find out he’s going to get the League Cup final and I’m like, ‘Please don’t let him f**k up!’ He comes out early to warm up and we’re positioned in the corner and he gives me a little thumbs up, and I’m like ‘That’s great.’ Because I’m rooting for this kid. Then the game goes to penalties and he turns out to be the hero. He comes over after it and I’ve given him this big hug: ‘I’m f*****g made up for you!’

PK: Nice.

JM: Yeah.

PK: So, finally a Corkman you can love?

JM: (Laughs) Yeah, but they’re a bit funny down there aren’t they?

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