Colin Watt with A Celtic State of Mind – Paddy McCourt: Celtic’s Quintessential Cult Player

Conditioned, analysed, preened, molded, academy-trained athletes with hair weaves and tattooed sleeves: The archetypal modern day footballer…

It’s a sign of the times – players are corporate commodity – and this fairly recent development more than likely sounds the death knell of the alluring cult footballer.

Fans could relate to these often unhinged, invariably iconic, players substantially more than the untouchable content and brand machines of today.

Cult players had the hair to match the flair; we loved them as much for their faults as for their natural brilliance.

Listen to DOMINIK DIAMOND with A Celtic State of Mind here:

Enter Celtic’s quintessential cult footballer – The Derry Pele, Paddy McCourt:

Paddy on Retirement:

“I’ve been so busy with retirement that I’ve not had a chance to put on the boots… but I’m not looking to play professionally, I just want the chance to play football with my mates – 5 or 7-a-side. I’ve been very busy with coaching since retiring so that was what I was alluding to.”

Paddy on Coaching:

“We try to encourage individualism at the club (Derry City)… By the term ‘street footballer’, I mean guys who would grab a ball and practice on their own for hours and hours at a time before taking back what they’ve learned to try on their friends in a game scenario. I wasn’t coached myself until 14 or 15 and that aspect of individualism should still be encouraged and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Paddy on Role Models:

“I would have to say my brothers Leroy and Harry, we were a football mad family, both my brothers played and especially Harry who played semi pro. We spent a lot of time playing and going to watch each other play.”

Paddy on Titles:

“It would be a shame for both clubs if they weren’t crowned champions. The season that Liverpool have had has been incredible and, considering they’ve waited so long, it would be unfair for them not to win the title. Celtic once again dominating Scottish football, comfortably leading the league. It’s not my call as to what happens but it would be a shame for them not to get the titles.”

Paddy on Derry City Prospects:

“Funny you should ask; we had three players on trial at Celtic during their mid-term break and there’s potential for the guys to head back over once this virus is over. From experience, I would tell them though, don’t do I what I done… Keep your head down and get advice from the right people. I made a few mistakes early in my career, but I can help and guide them now using my own experiences.”

Paddy on Celtic Regrets:

“Honestly, I should’ve worked harder and worked more on recovery and (in the) gym. I should’ve focused on the smaller things that would’ve helped me keep fitter, it’s the small things that are so important and key. Considering some of the guys I was up against in competition, it was just an honour to get in to the team.”

Paddy on Stephen Kenny:

“He’s an exceptional manager and I’m absolutely delighted for him to get his dream job as Republic of Ireland manager. He plays an exciting style of football and he is an ideal fit for this job. He’s not only a great manager but a great friend and someone who really guided my career.”

Paddy on Management:

“I’m working on my coaching badges and hopefully should have my pro badge by October. I love doing my job as Technical Director at Derry City. Management is something that interests me but I’m enjoying learning, so I don’t think this is something for me in the short term.”

Paddy on West Brom:

“West Brom had watched me several times and just before they had made a bid, I was aware of their interest. It was all set for me to go to West Brom, the contract was agreed, and I was set to do a medical the following morning. However, my agent informed me that Celtic had matched West Brom’s offer and for me it was a no-brainer… up to Glasgow, passed my medical and signed for Celtic. I didn’t get the chance to call Tony (Mowbray) before I signed for Celtic but they understood that I was signing for my boyhood heroes.”

Paddy on Signing for Celtic:

“It was incredible, I felt like the whole of Ireland were delighted for me. After settling in through the reserves, once I became a regular in the team, I could feel the fans’ love and support and it was a wonderful time in my life and career.”

Paddy on Gordon Strachan:

“Gordon’s a brilliant fella. When I first joined, I was a good bit behind in terms of fitness levels. When you’re not in his squad you don’t see a lot of him but when I broke through, I got to see a different side of him. Since he left, any time we catch up, it’s always good craic.”

Paddy’s Favourite Goal:

“Easy one – first goal for Celtic against Hearts. We were already 3 or 4 up but, given my love for the club, scoring in front of Celtic Park was just incredible, it was almost the pinnacle of my career.”

Paddy on Tony Mowbray:

“It was a clean slate for everyone, including me, so it was a case of just trying to get myself fit and work myself into contention. For whatever reason it just didn’t seem to click for Tony at Celtic and I think there was no one more disappointed than Tony. The team just didn’t progress at the right level and who knows what would have happened with a bit more luck?

“After the 4-0 defeat to St Mirren, we got in for training next day and then Tony called a team meeting to try and sort the situation but by the time I got home, it was confirmed that he had been sacked.”

Paddy’s Finest Player:

“Robbie Keane: an absolute hero. His movement, anticipation, finishing, his record speaks for itself. He’s one of the players I look back at and go wow!”

Paddy on The Huddle:

“Broony is absolutely amazing at motivation and in the huddle. It’s like the last 15-20 seconds where he fires everyone up… and believe me, he does!”

Paddy on Neil Lennon:

“I had barely played under Lenny in the interim basis, so I thought I was gone. However, when I got back from summer, Neil had a meeting with me to offer me a new deal. I was very surprised. So I played about 30-odd games that season and I was really given a chance.

“Lenny was very good to me and was very fair; I reckon I must have played about 85% of my games under Lenny. He’s a fantastic manager and you’ll hear that from a lot of the guys.”

Paddy on THAT Barcelona Victory:

“The prep work was incredible; we had a game plan and stuck very much to it. We focused on counter-attacks and set plays. It was really a special, special night, everything just seemed to work right.”

Paddy on James Forrest:

“I’ve always been impressed with James Forrest; he’s been a fantastic player for the club. He’s also a very nice guy and he’s always got time for people. I’m absolutely over the moon for him because he’s an incredible talent.”

Paddy on Being a Cult Hero:

“Genuinely, it’s humbling to hear something like that. I’m just delighted to know that I’ve left an impact on the Celtic fans. To get the opportunity to represent Celtic on the park is an incredible honour and to be remembered even now, it’s incredible!”

Paddy on a Future at Celtic:

“I’m very committed to my role here at Derry City, we’ve got a young inexperienced management team and a very supportive board. However, down the line if the opportunity ever arose then I would certainly have to give it a lot of thought because it’s a wonderful, wonderful club.”

Paddy on The Chants:

“It was a bit embarrassing at the start, going to the shops and someone in Aisle 6 just broke into song, I really wasn’t expecting it… It’s amazing though, people enjoying remembering my time in the hoops and for me that’s an incredible thought.”

Colin Watt

Watch A Celtic State of Mind at the Stevie Chalmers Auction here:

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