A lovely insight from Paul McGrath into what made Jack Charlton so special as a man and a manager.
While 2020 has been a hard year for everyone, the last few months have been particularly tough for Irish legend Paul McGrath after the sad passing of his mother, Betty, and a man that he regarded as a surrogate father, Jack Charlton.
In the season premiere of Lodging With Lucy, it’s comforting to know that McGrath takes great comfort and pride in how revered he is by the Irish public. Here’s hoping that he always finds that a source of immense happiness and strength.
However, before the show aired, the former Aston Villa and Manchester United defender appeared on The Ryan Tubridy Show and he spoke candidly about a moment when the disease of alcoholism had him in its grips.
Thankfully, Jack Charlton was on hand to give Paul McGrath the compassion, understanding, and patience that’s required.
“I knew Jack loved me. He loved me because he left me off that amount of times and he gave me more chances than any man deserved, to be honest. I think it was the Turkish game – when I genuinely couldn’t get off the bus – that night, he came back up to his room and I was sitting in a room on my own.
“The sweat was pumping out of me. He sat on the bed, he leaned over me and said ‘I’m sorry, son. I didn’t realise how bad you got it’ and I started bawling. Just then, he might have got what this thing was doing to me. It was a lovely thing for him to do because I think we just won 5-0 or something. We beat the Turks and were having a great day. For him to even bother with someone that had let him down, he was a really good man.”
“I felt that this is a man that actually cares about how you’re doing. It has nothing to do with football, or that he just wants you for the next game or anything like that. It’s just about Jack thinking ‘Oh my God, this lad is not well’ and I wasn’t well,” said McGrath.
In terms of his chat with Lucy Kennedy, it’s comforting to know that McGrath and a large part of the Irish squad got to saw one last goodbye to their former manager before he passed away.
During the show, McGrath said that a lot of the Irish squad – including himself – were at a golf event last year with Charlton also in attendance.
“It was lovely to have that day with him because we knew he wasn’t well. We had a fabulous day there. He was brilliant with me, kind and fair,” said McGrath.
Given McGrath’s immaculate consistency and heroics in an Irish jersey, the next few lines provide an interesting insight into what made the bond between both men so special.
McGrath always loved playing for his country and the green jersey, but every time he took to the pitch, he was also conscious of repaying Charlton’s trust and effort.
“He was brilliant with me because I caused him so many problems in areas that I shouldn’t have, just with drinking and not showing up for certain meetings. He genuinely wanted me in the team and I knew that. I always tried to say to myself ‘look, try and behave a little bit better tonight so you can make it to tomorrow.’
“There were times when we used to get beaten and I’d blame myself because I felt like I let him down and that I had to do better for him the next time. But there were times when I shouldn’t have been playing football because I wasn’t well,” said the legendary defender.
As for Paul McGrath’s time playing for Ireland under Jack Charlton, the former St Patrick’s Athletic man said that he still treasures every second of it.
“I look back on it and I loved every minute that I played for Ireland. I love the jersey. I love the thing about being Irish and pulling on that green jersey. There’s no bigger thrill, but I sometimes think I didn’t give everything I had because maybe, it wasn’t possible on certain days,” he said.
As any Irish supporter will say, McGrath did more than enough….and that’s an understatement.
For anyone that missed it, Paul McGrath’s appearance on Lodging With Lucy can be found here.