Mick ‘Baz’ Rathbone is the author of the brutally honest new book, The Smell of Football. He is almost unique in the game of professional football in that he has been a player, manager and physio. A no-nonsense full back, between 1975 and 1995 he turned out for Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Preston North End and Halifax Town, where he began his career as a physio and ended up managing the team as they battled to retain their place in the Football League. He went on to become physio at Preston North End in 1995 and then in 2002 he was appointed Head of Medicine at Everton FC by David Moyes. He left Everton in 2010 but continues to work in professional football in a freelance capacity, most recently for the England U17 team and Preston North End. The Smell of Football is released on August 2nd and is published by Vision Sports Publishing.
1/ Football can be a lonely game. It’s strange that you can be in a stadium surrounded by thirty thousand people and still feel completely and utterly alone.
2/ It’s hard to play alongside your heroes. I shouldn’t have been on the same pitch as Trevor Francis; my place was on the terraces and with my face pushed up against the railings after the match just to catch a glimpse of him.
3/ Not being able to perform a task through lack of technical ability is no disgrace, but not to be able to do it through lack of confidence is seen in football as unforgiveable. When I asked Wayne Rooney, aged just 17, whether he was nervous before his first-ever Merseyside derby for Everton he replied “No, Baz, I’m no more nervous than if it was a reserve game.” Confidence can be the difference between being able to perform at the highest level and choking.
4/ Sometimes it is good to start over. A new start, a new club, a new you. When I joined Blackburn Rovers I felt valued, respected, feted, admired, proud to wear the famous blue-and-white shirt.
5/ There’s no better feeling than to be part of a team of friends, comrades –brothers even – but most of all equals.
A relentless workload (and in my experience an understanding wife!) are needed to make your journey to the top.
6/ At some point you have to admit it’s over. Time to take the boots off, brush off the mud and hang them up for the last time, and wonder what the hell you’re going to do next.
7/ Only when you leave football do you realise what you’re missing. I was out of the game for a week and all I wanted was to get back into it.
8/ There can be triumph in defeat. There are no plaudits, no medals, but better still there is that warm glow of knowing you did your best and gave it your all. There’s not a finer feeling in the world.
9/ A relentless workload (and in my experience an understanding wife!) are needed to make your journey to the top. David Moyes made it where he is today because of his appetite for success and attention to detail. Back when he was a senior player at Preston, aged 33, he told me that by the time he was 45 he would have been Manager of the Season in the Premier League. And he was right, which is down as much to his dedication as his talent
10/ You should remember and treasure the moments that sum up everything you’ve worked for and make it all worthwhile. For me it was standing on the touchline with Moysie, talking to Phil Neville and Tim Cahill, while Arsene Wenger was animatedly speaking to Fabregas next to us. We were one-up and sixty thousand Arsenal fans were silent. These moments are what it’s all about – I’ll never forget them!
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