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05th Nov 2014

SportsJOE columnist Jason McAteer talks Ireland, Liverpool and his love of Tom Cruise

Get to know former Liverpool and Republic of Ireland midfielder Jason McAteer, the newest signing to the SportsJOE team...

Gareth Makim

Get to know former Liverpool and Republic of Ireland midfielder Jason McAteer, the newest signing to the SportsJOE team…

Welcome to SportsJOE, Jason, what can our readers expect from you?

Honesty. Humour. And just a little bit of an insight, I suppose, into what is going on in the industry. I’ll be speaking to my contacts in football clubs and the media so I’ll be able to offer an insider’s perspective into what’s happening in both club and international football.

We’ll definitely have plenty to talk about. Ireland have a huge fixture coming up in Glasgow – have you been impressed with the team’s start to the campaign?

Yeah, the results have been good. Obviously when Martin [O’Neill] took over he was waiting a while for the first win, wasn’t he, but once he got that, it sort of sparked a lot of confidence and now the Germany game has given us a massive lift. It reminds me of the way we started the group for the 2002 World Cup. We went to the Amsterdam Arena to play Holland, and we had Portugal as well, so we were kind of written off before we started. But we got a result against Holland and it gave is the belief and the confidence that we could match the best in the world. I know we only drew 2-2, but we should have won the game really. It just gave us this real confidence and then you could go into any game without any fear. The squad wanted to stay together and the spirit sort of guided us through the whole of qualifying.

Jason McAteer

That Germany result could have the same kind of impact now. Germany were the team off the back of the World Cup that were tipped to top the group with second place up for grabs. We’ve Poland in the group, who are going to be our closest rivals but you can only do your bit. We can’t worry about Poland beating Germany, you can only do what you can do.

Is there anything you’d like to see changed for the Scotland game?

No, I don’t think so. It’s going to be a tough game, there’s been a bit of a resurgence under Gordon Strachan and they’re in a similar situation to us, they’ve got a belief and a bit of momentum. The reins have been lifted a bit on the Scottish players. Managers these days, I think they get worried about losing three or four games in a row and losing their jobs so they go into games very cautiously. They go in not to lose rather than to win. I think that’s how Scotland had got but under Strachan, he’s let players go and express themselves. It’s a little bit similar to Martin following Trapattoni. Trap had a style, very Italian, very defensive and stuck to his system. He did the best he could and got us results and got us to the Euros in 2012, but Martin’s a bit different. He’s more expansive and he enjoys the lads playing how they want to play. We’ve seen the best of Aiden McGeady and Wes Hoolahan and he’s giving everyone an opportunity to express themselves. I’ve enjoyed watching the team play even though the results took a while to come, but I always felt this would be a good campaign.

Things certainly aren’t going as well for your old club Liverpool. What’s gone wrong at Anfield and can it be turned around?

I don’t know if it can be turned around too quickly, I think it’ll take time. There’s a couple of factors why Liverpool are where they are, and the one that sticks out like a sore thumb is that we’ve lost the best player in the Premier League and the top centre forward in Europe in Luis Suarez. Our other centre forward, Daniel Sturridge, has been out injured so that’s over 50 goals gone out of the team. The other thing is that we’ve tried to bed in six or seven players into the team which hasn’t worked as quickly as we’ve liked.

Brendan Rodgers

I do feel that Brendan Rodgers is looking for something, a formation that will gel like it did last year. He’s shifting people around, he’s tried out Mario Balotelli and he’s struggled as a lone striker. There’s no momentum and no confidence. We’re just searching for a spark but I think it’ll come. The squad is stronger now and it had to be to cope with the extra demands of European football. I think improvement is just around the corner.

Given how formidable Chelsea look, is everyone almost playing for second place already?

I was actually just talking about this with my mate this morning. You just can’t see Chelsea getting beat, can you? They’re just so solid in all areas. Mourinho threatened to do this, he said last year that it wasn’t his team, he identified the players he wanted to bring in, and it wasn’t hard given the lack of goals. Diego Costa has come in, he’s brought Didier Drogba back as cover and it’s just worked. It helps that goals are coming from everywhere, you’ve got Cesc Fabregas chipping in and defensively they’ve gone from strength to strength. Mourinho’s shown he’s not afraid to make big calls, he’s brought Thibaut Courtois in for Cech.

They just look so formidable that I think by Christmas everyone will be playing catch-up and we could be done when we get into the middle of January.

You’re doing a fair of media these days, what would McAteer the pundit say about McAteer the player?

I think he’d say McAteer the player is very hard-working and honest, and vital to any team that he plays in!

You’ve also been playing a lot of charity and legends games, what former player could still do a job?

You’ve got be looking at centre forwards for Liverpool, you’ve got to say Robbie Fowler. Although he has put a little bit of chunk on. He’s looking rather large around the waist area, he’s gone from a 32 to a 38-inch waist so you’d have to get a specially-made kit for him. The new skin-tight kits wouldn’t really do his physique any favours, but he still knows where the goal is and he’d certainly run around more than Balotelli.

Your other old teammate, Michael Owen, recently tweeted that he’d only ever watched eight movies. What is the last film you watched?

I’ve probably watched a million and eight with all the travelling I do. I’ve just finished series three of Homeland, I know it’s not a film. What films have I watched? Oh, I watched Transformers on the plane. And before that it Edge of Tomorrow, with Tom Cruise. Decent film that, decent film. Very decent. I like a bit of Tom.

O-K. Moving swiftly on, if you could change any rule in football, what would it be?

I’d have a sin-bin, like rugby. I know Michel Platini’s pushing for it and I quite like it.

Who was your sporting hero?

Kenny Dalglish. He’s to blame for all this.

If you hadn’t become a footballer, what would you be doing?

I was quite a good artist in school, I got 98 per cent in my exam. Then I went to college and studied graphic design, so I think I would have incorporated that into sport. I’d have been a PE teacher, and instead of geography, like every other PE teacher ever, my second subject would have been art.

If you were to be reincarnated as an animal what would you choose?

I don’t like the cold, so I wouldn’t choose a polar bear. I’d come back as a cheetah I think, yeah. Just the pace and the fact that it’s a good-looking thing, isn’t it? It’s got a great body, yeah. It’s got it going on.


What is the one life skill you have failed to master?

I can’t whistle. I whistle like [makes faint whistling noise], I can’t properly whistle [blows]. That’s my whistle, through my teeth [repeats faint whistling noise]. I tell you what, though, I am shit… I am shit at DIY. I’m telling you. Do you know what I did once? I wanted to surprise my mum, she wanted a kitchen cabinet put up. I put it up,  but I put it up with nails and I nailed it to the wall. In the middle of the night, there was this massive crash and it had just come away from the wall. I’m so terrible. If I’ve to put any together I’ve got parts left over.

Facial hair preference?

I don’t like it on women! But I am sporting stubble because my wife likes it.

Favourite cartoon character?

I might be going back too far, but do you remember Hong Kong Phooey? Hong Kong Phooey was a ledge in my house. I was a big fan of Hong Kong Phooey – chick-a-bow, chick-a-bow, chick-a-bow-wow-wow – yeah.

Jason McAteer will be writing for SportsJOE every Thursday. Coming next week: How he longs for hair like Matthew McConaughey

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