By Joel Lampkin
4,000 Days ago Jason McAteer began talks regarding a contract extension at Tranmere Rovers to continue his role as Reserve team coach and part-time player – negotiations riddled with jitters that would eventually lead him away from the sport he loved.
First team manager Ronnie Moore felt that the then 35-year-old was surplus to requirements, and released the former Liverpool star with the decision not one that the Republic of Ireland international was happy with.
With his playing time restricted, McAteer was content with coaching the reserve side and was happy to continue with his new calling as he prepared for life away from playing, but the decision was taken out of his hands.
As the ex Premier League midfielder had become more comfortable in a teaching role, and with Tranmere finishing the 2006-07 season outside of the playoffs, the former captain believed that his manager’s reasoning behind ushering him out of the door stemmed from a position of fear from Moore’s behalf.
He said: “It was taken out of my hands to be fair, it was the manager’s decision – I was wiling to stay on for another season or another couple of seasons.
“I was doing the reserves I was happy [although] I wasn’t playing as much in the first team, the manager at the time was Ronnie Moore who towards the end of my playing contract, I felt that he felt that I was a threat to his job.
“I think that he thought I wanted to step into his shoes.”
McAteer however felt that this was inaccurate and that Moore had nothing to fear, with the veteran happy to continue to earn his coaching badges at the League One side.
“[His presumption] Could not be further from the truth” he confirmed “it was not something that I was geared up to do; I was not ready to step up to management.
“I certainly did not want his job, I was just enjoying what I did which was the reserves and featuring now and again with the first team, and just offering what I had when it was needed to be honest and I would have done that for another couple of seasons.
“I got the feeling that he could not wait to get me out the door when my contract was up and he took the opportunity not to renew it.”
As his best days were behind him, the subject of whether to continue playing was a difficult one for McAteer to assess; and with a young family in his life moving away was no option.
With his hands tied, a 15-year playing career had come to a sudden end with the subject of what to do next, one that many retired football player has had to face up to.
He said: “I just thought well, I did not really want to move away, I do not really want to go through the process of trying to find a new club, I stepped away from football and went into the media.
“It was only a few seasons later when I got the phone call saying do you want to come back and be assistant manager – which was something I grabbed two hands.”
Despite his retirement from playing football, and working in a small capacity in the media industry, McAteer would eventually return to Prenton Park in a different capacity some two years later.
In a weird twist of fate, two seasons on from being released by Moore, due to fear of him taking his job, the Irishman would end up taking his former manager’s place in the dugout, alongside John Barnes.