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How Ulsterman Ferris had a key role in my career, explains Alan Shearer



Working out: Alan Shearer at the Bannatyne Health Club and Spa at Holywood Exchange

Working out: Alan Shearer at the Bannatyne Health Club and Spa at Holywood Exchange

Working out: Alan Shearer at the Bannatyne Health Club and Spa at Holywood Exchange

England and Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer has hailed the impact that close friend and confidante Paul Ferris had during his injury spells as a player.

Lisburn man Ferris, a former footballer for Newcastle who had to retire from the game due to injury, was working as a physio under Kevin Keegan at the Magpies when he met Shearer.

While out through injury during the 1997-98 season, Shearer and Ferris formed a bond that saw them develop a close relationship off the pitch, while the Ulsterman kept him on the field through some troubling spells with recurring injuries.

With the aid of Ferris, Shearer was able to go on and establish himself as one of the greatest strikers to play the game as the Premier League's leading goalscorer and an international regular for England.

Their partnership also eventually led to Shearer asking Ferris to be part of his backroom staff at St James' Park during his temporary stint as manager towards the end of the 2009 season.

Speaking yesterday at the launch of the Bannatyne Group's new refurbished health club and spa at the Holywood Exchange, Shearer admitted that much of his career was down to the work done in the treatment room by Ferris.

"He was brilliant for me," said Shearer. "Being out for six or seven months, you need someone to talk to or bounce off a lot of the time and Paul was there for me when it was tough, when it was hard, when it was long.

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"We have a great relationship and get on very well, and it was mentally and physically he helped me.

"There are some days where you convince yourself you aren't going to get back to where you were as a player, and that's when you need the physio to pull you through.

"Fortunately, I had Paul to be that person."

Ferris has detailed many of their encounters in his new book, The Boy On The Shed, which was named the Sunday Times' Sports Book of the Year and has also been nominated for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award.

The 53-year-old has had quite a journey since he left football behind, and not all of it positive.

Having worked through early retirement as a player, Ferris had a heart attack while driving Newcastle player Rob Lee to training, which led to the discovery that he has a cardiac condition that runs in his family, which affects how his body handles cholesterol.

And within the last couple of years he's been going through radiotherapy for prostate cancer, the latest battle in a life that, in his words, has seen him dealt a particularly tough hand.

But Ferris still maintains a positive outlook on life, making the most of every day, and a chance to reconnect with Shearer one-to-one in his home country was a chance he was never going to pass up on.

"It's been an incredible privilege for me to have the ability to make a contribution to one of the greatest careers this country has ever seen," stated the Lisburn man.

"When I met him, he was already the world's most expensive footballer, then he had a couple of serious injuries and we got to know each other, work hard together and hopefully there's a mutual respect there. I certainly respect him and I hope he respects me!"

So where did the good relationship come from then, in his opinion?

"You spend every day with someone, you have to make sure you enjoy every day rather than just rehabbing, otherwise it gets a bit like groundhog day," explained Ferris.

"My goal with him was to make it feel like everything was happening off the cuff, when in actual fact I'd planned everything at home the night before!"

Shearer and Ferris are ambassadors behind the new Speedflex studio at the Bannatyne Health Club and Spa, which encourages people of all ages, shapes and sizes to get fit and active.

"We tried to create the most inclusive room for anyone at any stage in life to come in and train, and this room does that perfectly, and that's what I love about it," commented Ferris.

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