Belfast Telegraph

'He's a father figure': Josh Magennis reveals how true friendship with retired Gareth McAuley started over a mobile phone in Chile

Josh Magennis and Gareth McAuley during Northern Ireland's trip to central America last year.
Josh Magennis and Gareth McAuley during Northern Ireland's trip to central America last year.

There's no day in work quite as grim as the week after your favourite colleague as upped sticks and left the company.

The office just isn't quite the same but there's no going back. You've been abandoned.

It's an adjustment that Northern Ireland striker Josh Magennis is still coming to terms with after his close pal Gareth McAuley officially announced his retirement.

The centre-half hadn't been included in the first Northern Ireland squad of the season last month but, with the potential still there for a comeback, it will have felt to Magennis more like his partner in crime was off on holiday.

Now, the resignation has been tendered, accepted and the leaving party is over.

"People who know me and G, know that we are very, very close," he tells the Irish FA's Northern Ireland podcast. "I miss him here now. I text him all the time and say I can't believe he's gone and that I'm here on my own."

"I'm very good friends with Niall (McGinn), Stuart Dallas, Davo (Steven Davis) and Laff (Kyle Lafferty) but me and G are proper tight."

We've all been there, Josh.

But the Hull City striker, who is expected to start for Northern Ireland in the Netherlands, has explained that it's more than just an inside work friendship.

Rather, McAuley has gone from a team-mate to becoming much more important than that.

"We became mates and would text every so often then he moved to being like my big brother, keeping me in check, asking me what I'm doing, leading me down the straight and narrow and making sure I'm alright," he explained. "People think it's really funny to say but to me, he's like a father figure.

"He's probably one of two or three proper positive male role models that I have, coming from the background that I had. I didn't have a dad growing up.

"He's honest to me. He doesn't blow smoke up my backside. He'll give me the honest answer whether I'll like it or not. I speak to him on a daily basis and it's not just about football. I'll talk to him about life. When my missus told me she was pregnant, I was on to him for advice because he had already had kids.

"To me, he's family, he'll always be family and I'll always hold him in the highest regard. I wouldn't let anybody talk badly about him in front of me. I'm going to miss having him about but thank God, we have a friendship and I'll be able to see him outside (football)."

And yet the bond began more in convenience when Magennis made his Northern Ireland debut in Chile back in 2010.

"I was at Cardiff then," he recalls. "It was under Nigel Worthington and none of the senior players really went but G did. I was with an old girlfriend at the time but I didn't have any credit on my phone and we were in South America so I was like 'who can I latch on to?'

"Me and G managed to get quite tight and I kept asking could I borrow his phone. I just told him it was nothing serious but I needed it. After the trip, he rang me saying that I racked up his phone bill and cost him an absolute fortune.

"I was like 'how much is it?' and I had to tell him I couldn't pay it back.

"He is a massive loss to this because people see the glitz and the glam of football but G did it the hard way. It's a pure dream. Kids should be looking up to him and his journey. Not many people would be able to replicate what he did. I'm proud to know him."

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