McAteer on a father-son like relationship with Bruce Rioch at Bolton

Jason McAteer began his professional career at Bolton Wanderers after joining from non-league side Marine, and he went onto become a key figure in the team before an eventual move to Liverpool. The former Republic of Ireland international spoke about his close relationship with former boss Bruce Rioch and touched on two interesting incidents involving an expensive sports car and Mark Patterson.

Speaking on the ‘Here We Go Again’ podcast, he said: ‘I and Bruce had a really strong relationship from the beginning, like a father-son relationship. We were very close. Stubbsy maybe not as close with Bruce but very close with Toddy (Colin Todd).’

‘Bruce would keep me behind, he’d have me doing afternoon training – I was always doing extra running. I never looked at it as a chore, staying behind. I never looked at it as hard work. He showed me how to run off players and he told me he didn’t want me to play wide-right which is how Phil (Neal) had obviously wanted me to play; Bruce wanted me to play in midfield.’

‘I started playing centre midfield under Steve Carroll who was the reserves manager. So, we worked on running off players, fitness, tackling, heading, running and jumping. All basic stuff but once it all comes together, you become a bit more of a complete package.’

‘What I think he had with me was a rough diamond really, and I think Bruce knew he could work with that. He was also really hard with me as well and he’d tell me off and get in my head because our relationship got to the point where I didn’t want to let him down. So, if he shouted at me or called me out, I was devastated. I was gutted that I’d let him down.’

‘He kept saying to me: ‘If you do well for me, I’ll give you a new contract’, because when I signed for Bolton I was on £100 quid-a-week. So, my next contract went to £200, then it went to £500 and this was all over a period of 10-15 games. My money just kept increasing and increasing. Then I remember getting my money up to about £800 a-week, so me and Stubbsy went out and bought new cars.’

‘When you came down the hill towards Burnden Park, there was a car garage on the right past the snooker club. There was a little tiny car garage and it used to have really nice cars in there, he was a bit of a flash car dealer. There was a Racing Green Lotus Elan in the window all the time, and I loved it.’

‘So, we signed this new contract and Stubbsy went out and bought this really sensible car, like an Astra or something and I went and bought this Lotus Elan. After training I went up and bought it, and then I drove it home. The next morning I’ve gone into training all made up with this brand new car; like, I’m a footballer, I’m playing in the first team and now I’ve got the sports car.’

‘I drove into the car park at Burnden Park and we were getting changed, then Bruce Rioch came in. In front of all the lads he said, ‘Whose is the Green Lotus Elan in the car park?’ I remember thinking Oh my God! I turned round and told him it was mine and he said: ‘Right, what you do is you train this morning, and then after training you take it back to the car dealer up the road and ask for your money back! In fact I’ve spoken to him already and he’s got your money waiting for you.’

‘I got through training and everyone was laughing at me. I literally drove the Lotus Elan to the car dealer and the ‘fella from the garage gave me a cheque and started laughing. Then I got in Stubbsy’s car and he took me home. When I got home, my mum told me I had to buy a sensible car because Bruce was on the phone and he wasn’t happy.’

‘His thinking was that it wasn’t safe for me to be driving on the motorway from the Wirral in a two-seater car. Bruce would never explain things to me until about six weeks later though, and then I’d go in his office and he’d go ‘The reason I told you to send that car back was this, or the reason I never played you in that game was this, or the reason I did this to you or said this to you was this.’

‘Once the dust had settled and you’d seen the bigger picture, you would understand where he was coming from. He was a brilliant manager. He was tough. I remember another time in training and an incident with Mark Patterson. Mark Patterson was the hardest player in the world. Paddy would smash anything, and Bruce was watching from the side-line when Paddy went right through me – cut me in half!’

‘He could have ended my career, it was a naughty tackle. We got to half time and I was limping around but I got on with it. At half-time, Bruce was doing a bit of a team talk and he says to one of the kids: ‘Sit down, I’m coming on for the second half.’ He came on and I swear to God, he smashed Mark Patterson with the most ruthless tackle you’ve ever seen. Then, he stood over him and it was as if to say ‘Don’t bully the kids, because there’s a bigger and harder person than you, and it’s me!’

He was one of the best managers I’ve ever played for and he put an unbelievable Bolton team together. We were on the training ground for hours doing shape, we worked on pressing and he had great connections in Scotland with the Scout Ian McNeil who brought down Andy Walker, John McGinlay, Owen Coyle – some brilliant players came down from Scotland to play for us and just made us what we were.’

Listen to the full episode with Jason McAteer on Spotify or Apple Music. The podcast is also available to watch on our YouTube channel.

Read Time: 6 mins