Graham's Blog

Pat Bonner: The Loneliness of the No.1

In the sweltering heat of Orlando Pat Bonner misjudged a net-bound shot during Ireland’s knock-out defeat to the Netherlands at USA ’94. Getting over setbacks like that, and indeed the whole psychology of goalkeeping, has obsessed him ever since he hung up his gloves. He has been a top-level coach, he has developed goalkeeping courses and he has been a consultant to the major footballing bodies.

In this brilliant lock-down Big Interview, he is incredibly insightful on the nature of modern goalkeeping, especially on how the No1 has now become a player in his own right. It is little wonder Pat is such a sought-after broadcast analyst. He is also one of the true gents of the beautiful game. Thanks for breaking the lock-down monotony, Pat.

Graham

Pat Bonner: One Night in Genoa

Pat Bonner was made in Donegal: his values, resilience and work ethic were instilled in him by his family and his community, while playing Gaelic football toughened him up for a glittering soccer career.

He was Celtic’s stalwart No1 for years, winning nine major honours at the club, and he earned 80 caps for the Republic of Ireland. His penalty save in a shootout in Genoa against Romania earned his national side a place in the quarter-finals of Italia ’90. Just weeks before, Pat had failed to save a single kick in the shootout against my beloved Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup final. But he analysed and strategised and gave his country one of their biggest parties ever. Everyone in the world was a little bit Irish that night.

Enjoy

Graham

Brendan Rodgers: Brown and Morgan, a Tale of Two Captains

When Brendan Rodgers took the Celtic job he was advised to jettison Scott Brown. Instead, Brendan invited him to his London home where they chatted about what behaviour he expected from a captain, and also how he could incorporate ‘Broonie’ in a different role. Despite the relatively advanced stage in his career, Scott transformed his attitude and style of play, and coach and skipper lifted trophy after trophy in Glasgow.

When Brendan took over at Leicester, he again forged a crucial relationship with the incumbent captain, Wes Morgan, and there’s great stuff about Leicester and England talents James Maddison and Ben Chilwell. Brendan also reflects on why Philippe Coutinho was adored at Liverpool but failed to hit the ground running at Barcelona.

Finally, there’s a moving testament on how Brendan considers himself duty-bound to help preserve the legacy and vision of beloved Leicester owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who died in such tragic circumstances in 2018.

Brendan Rodgers: The other side of Luis Suarez

Brendan Rodgers possesses one of the sharpest analytical minds in football, but more than that he is a purist, a devotee of the beautiful game– as demonstrated by the verve with which his high-flying Leicester side plays. It was an honour for the Big Interview to engage with him and I hope our conversation will alleviate the effects of lockdown for our dear listeners.

As a rookie coach, Brendan had the foresight to regularly visit Spain to soak up the methods employed there – not least because the Spanish had a way of incorporating players of a shorter stature, something the Northern Irishman could relate to!

Brendan tells us about working with true greats: Samuel Eto’o was the ultimate winner, Luis Suárez was the ultimate team player. There’s also a tribute to John Terry, a ‘world-class’ central defender.

Classic Big Interview: Chris Sutton

Here’s another chance to hear my interview with Chris Sutton from season two.

Chris’ success as a striker in England and Scotland was rooted in a tough start. As a kid, an initial rejection by his local club Norwich just made him all the hungrier – and a second bite at the cherry with the Canaries plus his dad and his youth coach’s tough motivational approaches set him on the trajectory to a trophy-laden career.

At Norwich he once faced Alan Shearer while playing as a centre-half, and was on the end of a 7-1 schooling. But he so shone as a striker at Carrow Road that he would soon partner Shearer at Blackburn after a record transfer move. There, manager Kenny Dalglish had his players walking through walls for him all the way to a famous last-day league title win. Yet it was Chris’ incredibly successful relationship with the legendary Henrik Larsson at Celtic that was his most cherished, not least because it followed a very difficult period at Chelsea during which he had lost his confidence.

I guarantee you will love hearing this very different side to one of the game’s great characters.

Graham