Interview: Grant McCann

Grant McCann left his home of Belfast at the age of 16 to begin life as a professional footballer, with West Ham United. Up until now he has spent all of his club career (bar a short loan spell north of the border at Livingston) in English football, plying his trade at the likes of Barnsley, Peterborough and Scunthorpe United. Now 34, and in the twilight of his career, McCann has returned home to sign for his boyhood club; Linfield FC…

How did the move to Linfield FC come about, and do you intend to carry on playing when the contract runs out in the summer?
I always wanted to play for Linfield as a kid and I support them to this day. When the manager asked me about coming I had a big decision to make, not only for me but for my family and I decided to do it… I’m not sure what the future holds for me, I will make a decision in due course, but coaching and management is something I have a burning desire to do.

How did it feel turning out for your home town club last Tuesday night, against Ballinamallard United?
It felt great even though the result was a hard one to take. But there’s a long way to go in the league and we still have a great chance.

What are the main differences, especially in training, between being full-time at Peterborough and now part-time with Linfield?  [Submitted by Stevie D, Linfield fan]

Linfield imageThere’s a difference because Linfield train three times a week and when you’re full time it’s every day. But in terms of quality Linfield have some very good footballers, it’s been surprising how good the players are that’s why I feel we still have a great chance to win the league.

The majority of Posh fans were not happy about you leaving and thought you still had an important part to play. Is that a sentiment you share, or was it the right time to move on?
That’s not for me to comment really, but what I would say is; yes I felt I could have had some sort of role to play, but Peterborough is all about bringing the youth through and I’m all for it, so hopefully that can continue.

Before leaving Peterborough, you were coaching the youth team. Is coaching something you expect to get involved with when you do retire?
Yes, for definite that is what I want to do. I enjoyed working with Dave Robertson who I learned so much off in the six weeks I was helping coach the youth team.

Having worked with the youth at Posh, are there any potential stars for the future that Peterborough United supporters can get excited about?
There’s more than a few with a great chance but would be wrong of me to single them out. With belief, focus and hard work they will get there hopefully.

They (Peterborough United) have been on a bad run of late, but do you think they can turn it around and make the play offs?
Yes I do. The manager has been there and done it before so he knows what it takes. I’m sure they will turn things around and if they get to the play offs I expect them to win them.

Being a young player in Northern Ireland, how did West Ham hear about you, and how did the eventual signing for them come about?
Harry Redknapp watched me in a few games when I was 14 and I went over for a trial. He was obviously impressed by me because I signed within two weeks of the trial, on a two year scholarship.

wham_squareIt must have been difficult leaving Northern Ireland for England at only 16, how did you cope with the move and were West Ham helpful in making you feel at home?
It was very difficult, the first year I was so homesick. The digs I was in was tough, but I stayed with some great lads; Michael Carrick and Anthony Hudson, son of former Chelsea player Alan, who were in the same boat and helped me settle in.

You were linked with a number of Championship clubs before signing for Posh. One of which was reportedly Nottingham Forest – a team your son has since joined. How is his development going?
Yeah that is true, but I felt I was going to club with great expectations of getting promoted, and I was proved right. In terms of my son; I won’t be rushing him. I feel that if he is good enough at 13 or 14 then he can go to an academy. At the minute I would rather he plays with his mates and enjoy the game.

You earned 39 caps for Northern Ireland, what was your favourite moment playing for your country?
My debut and my first goal I can’t split them

northernirelandNorthern Ireland have had a good start to the qualifiers, do you think they can make it to France next summer?
They have a great chance now with three teams qualifying, so I really hope they can do it. Best position we have been in for many years.

What have been your career highlights – And do you have any big regrets?
I have no regrets. I set out to play for my country when I was a young kid and I wanted to play in the Premier League. I did both. My best moments would be my three promotions and representing my country.

 Who was the best player you have played with and against during your career?
Best player I have played with is, Eyal Berkovic at West Ham. Best player I played against was Pirlo.

 Finally, as a Glasgow Rangers fan, what do you think to the recent activity up there with Mike Ashley’s involvement in the club?
I would rather not comment on Rangers because I would end up saying something I would regret…