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McPhail: I can be a boss next


OF all the men who came through the international underage hot house created by Brian Kerr, Stephen McPhail was always the one who seemed designed to be a manager.

He's back in Dublin now, signed up for Shamrock Rovers for a final tilt as a player in the League of Ireland, but it would be a big surprise if he someday doesn't make the transition from gifted midfielder to manager.

"Maybe, I'm trying to concentrate on getting my football life done with and then maybe look at it, something like that. It's something that would interest me in the future," said McPhail after he was unveiled as Shamrock Rovers' new star signing.


"I've done my B (coaching licence) and hopefully I will start my A soon. It may take a year or two to get that done and then try get the Pro. I love football and I don't think I could be without it at any stage, but you never know."

He just loves the game. Loves the training, loves the rhythm he first tuned into as a kid, travelling around Ireland with his grandfather Paddy Doran, who helped out Ray Treacy when he was with Home Farm and the Hoops.

"My grandad was there with Ray (Treacy). I got quite close to most of the lads growing up and I got to see how they trained. It was great. It was a great time.

"I loved my football from a young age and to get a chance to go into the League of Ireland to see it at first hand at such a young age, I think helped me a lot."

It is easy to see that he would find it hard to live without an involvement in the game. He has done some of the coaching courses and will take on the big badges he needs once he is done with playing.

He won't hang around, that seems certain. Nobody is more aware of life's capacity to throw a custard pie when least expected.

Beginning with the cancer he successful battled and more recently, when he was told he had Sjogren's syndrome, a condition which includes arthritis and joint inflammation as one of its unwelcome gifts, his was hardly the average professional football career in England.

McPhail has fellow sufferer Venus Williams to thank for extending his professional football career and allowing him to return to play for Shamrock Rovers in the League of Ireland.

Back in 2012 and three years after he was diagnosed, Williams rang McPhail's house after he initiated contact and spent some time speaking with him about the condition which can cause early onset arthritis and joint inflammation.

Williams pointed him towards Dr Daniel Wallace, an LA-based specialist and a treatment which allowed him to keep playing was found.

Through it all, he kept training, kept fighting and is now in the happy position that he is fit and ready to add his considerable store of knowledge and ability to Trevor Croly's title challenge.

"I feel really good. I look after myself. The best I've ever done over the last few years. I've been learning every year how to keep on top of myself and how to keep fit."

On more than one occasion, the condition he has could, and possibly should, have signalled an end to his playing days, but he learned how to persevere in the face of tough odds when he went through chemotherapy. Now, everything is closely monitored.

"Yes, it is. It's all quite straightforward stuff, especially when you get to my age and have played as many games over there that I have, you sort of have to manage yourself differently," he said, although his first reaction to the diagnosis was anything but as calm about it as he is now.

"Yes. Initially, it was the fear factor because no one knew anything about it. It was just getting through that period and seeing how the body reacted.

"Luckily for me, I've found a bit of treatment that is working. So I keep that going and, as I said, just try and keep fit and healthy. That's the main thing.

"I have it every six months. It's a treatment I've learned about. I went to see a specialist in LA and he gave me a treatment to go through and I have it every six months, just to keep on top of the syndrome I have. That sort of squashes it and keeps it at bay.

"It's just a day in hospital and you are out. I have a few days of recovery after that and I'm fine. I train within three days of the treatment. That's how I keep on top of it."

McPhail has to talk about his own health almost every time he sees the media in Ireland and he could not avoid it on the occasion of his unveiling as a Hoop.


But his story is a heartening tale of a man who fights for what he loves and wins, rising above each knock back fate delivers to his door. No doubt, he hopes that this interest in him will fade and earns headlines for football rather than human interest.

For the moment, he is feeling his way into a new job and a new environment. "It's a bit like back to school for me," he said with a grin.

"I don't know too much about the players, or anything, just yet. I only met them yesterday (Tuesday) for the first time. It will take a good month or so till I find out what it's all about really in terms of where it is at now.

"I know over the years what the standard has been, but for now it's something I just have to experience. I'm looking forward to it."