Cult Heroes: Jason "A Few Fries Short Of A Happy Meal" McAteer
With the fallout from Sunday's tempestuous Tyne/Wear Derby still rumbling on you could be forgiven for forgetting all about this Saturday's clash with Liverpool at the Stadium of Light. Whilst I'm sure we would all love to spend a few more days picking apart Alan Pardew's ridiculous assessment of the game we must move on and pack away our derby loathing for another season... So on to Liverpool, another club as it turns out who are easy to hate at the moment...
As is customary here on Roker Report we like to have a peruse back through the footballing archives and pick out a Cult Hero who has represented both sides and the honour this week is bestowed to good old Trigger himself, Jason McAteer.Born and bred in Birkenhead (which definitely sounds like it was a hit from Half Man Half Biscuit), McAteer spent his youth career with non-league side Marine before impressing scouts from Bolton Wanderers enough to earn himself a professional contract with the side in 1992. Jason's spell with the side coincided with a relatively successful
period in Bolton's history as the club secured promotion from Division Two as runners up in 1992/93, reached the League Cup Final in 1995 and won the Division One Playoffs just a few weeks later.
Whilst Premier League football was secured with Bolton, McAteer took little persuading to make the short move West to join his boyhood club Liverpool early in the new season with his new suitors having been impressed with his performance against them in the previous season's League Cup Final. A fee of around £4.5m was agreed between the two clubs.
Whilst McAteer had made a name for himself with both Bolton and on the International scene with Republic of Ireland having starred at the 1994 World Cup, as a central midfielder he was to be given a new lease of life with the Reds on the right wing. It was a position which he excelled in although you got the impression he was the kind of player that would happily play wherever he was asked, especially for his boyhood club.
However, whilst it may well be a tad harsh, McAteer's time on Merseyside will go down in history for his part in the Liverpool "Spice Boys" of the late 1990's alongside fellow hedonistic team-mates Jamie Redknapp, David James, Steve McManaman and Stan Collymore to name but a few rather than for any on-field achievements. The gentlemen in question constantly made the headlines for all the wrong reasons at the time for being seemingly more concerned with fast cars, fast women and cream Armani suits as apposed to challenging for silverware.
Of course footballers making millions from "image rights" and endorsing all kinds of products is nothing new or surprising these days but all of these young footballers have McAteer and his band of merry men to thank for really elevating the stardom that footballers were granted to the next level. Who can forget McAteer's shampoo commercial...
McAteer left the gang behind in 1998 for pastures new with Blackburn Rovers for a two year spell where he helped the side earn promotion to the top flight before signing for The Black Cats in October of 2001 when Peter Reid finally completed a ten year interest in the midfielder who he originally highlighted as a transfer target as the then Manchester City boss. Reid rescued the Irishman from Rovers' reserves and instilled him in his Sunderland side battling for survival in the Premier League.
Jason's short spell on Wearside will be remembered most fondly for his "perfect" performance in goading future SAFC boss Roy Keane into a reaction at the Stadium of Light in 2003 which assisted his side to a valuable point. McAteer and Keane had famously fallen out during the Saipan incident which marred Ireland's 2002 World Cup campaign and fireworks were guaranteed that afternoon. We all know by now what happened, so lets just watch it back one last time!
Unfortunately for both Jason and Sunderland the experienced midfielder seemed to have lost his touch at Old Trafford for the FA Cup Semi Final in 2004 as a tough tackling Millwall lineup that included the likes of Denis Wise, Kevin Muscat and Neil Harris got the better of the McAteer and his questionable temperament on the day, although Mick McCarthy must also accept some of the blame for not removing his man from the line of fire before receiving his second yellow card, just another disappointment that made up a catalogue of errors that day.
As Sunderland's season ended in Play-Off Semi Final disappointment at the hands of Crystal Palace McAteer's time on Wearside also came to an end before returning to Merseyside to end his career with Tranmere ahead of a brief venture into football management alongside John Barnes, a brief venture indeed.
All in all McAteer will be remembered for his colourful career and for not exactly being the coldest beer in the fridge.