Q&A with Gareth McAuley: Northern Ireland and West Brom hero discusses his toughest opponent, favourite ground and more
Gareth McAuley has called time on his playing career but he has allowed us to dig a little deeper into his memories from the pitch.
Who was your toughest opponent?
Robin van Persie. When he left Arsenal and had his first season at Manchester United, he was different class and brilliant with the way he would shield the ball from you with his body.
Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero is another. I don’t think I ever managed to keep a clean sheet against him.
I watch the top strikers on TV now and think how did I ever play against them. They are scary.
Who was the best player you played alongside?
I’d have to sit down and think about that one.
I’ve played with some good players. The most high profile one would be Romelu Lukaku. Steven Davis would be up there. I’ve played with Serge Gnabry (Bayern Munich) as well but he never got a game at West Brom. In training you could see he had the quality he is showing now but he couldn’t get a game with us!
What was your favourite ground?
Goodison Park. Under the lights was special there and I enjoyed the atmosphere. It all closes in and it’s an old style ground and I really liked it.
As a teenager at Linfield, in your wildest dreams did you think you would have the career you did?
No. I would never have looked that far in advance. In football when you get ahead of yourself, it has a tendency to bite you.
A lot of people do get ahead of themselves and then they are gone and are out of the game.
When I was at Linfield, my only objective was to try and get in the team. It was the same with Crusaders and Coleraine.
I always wanted to do my best for whatever club I was at, not really looking at the bigger picture.
It was only when I was starting to be linked with clubs across the water that I thought ‘I wouldn’t mind giving this a go’.
When the links to other clubs came, I tried to get myself as fit as possible to give myself a chance.
Do you have any memories of winning the Irish Cup with Coleraine before you left?
Yes, my only winners’ medal.
In the final, we beat Glentoran who were chasing the clean sweep.
They robbed a goal off me in that game. It was disallowed. Even so, that was a special day.
For a few years, there’s been talk of you playing for hometown club Larne. Would you have considered that or joining another Irish League team to finish your career?
To be honest, no. I’m settled with my family here in England and the kids are settled at school.
I could have probably gone down the line of flying in and flying out but then you are doing it for the wrong reasons. You are not committed and not giving it everything and that’s never been me.
How would you like to be remembered as a footballer?
It doesn’t really bother me. To be remembered at all is nice on its own.
Belfast Telegraph Digital