Football: Now Big Paul Really Is Master McGrath; LEGEND TO HELP UNITE WATERFORD
Byline: Garry DOYLE
PAUL McGrath and Waterford United have formed an unlikely alliance.
From today McGrath, the former Irish international, will be known as Waterford's Director of Football and overall Club Ambassador in a move that has surprised Irish soccer's tight community.
Recognising the talent dormant in one another, Waterford and McGrath hope to begin a rehabilitation process to lift them both from months of turmoil.
For McGrath, the breakdown of his marriage and his problems with alcohol, have caused serious hurt.
For Waterford the pain has been less severe but still the club's reputation was damaged by the controversial dismissal of Jimmy McGeough as manager - and by the subsequent fans' revolt.
This news, allied to the appointment of Alan Reynolds as player- manager, should sweeten soured relationships.
McGrath, in spite of, or perhaps because of, his personal problems, remains one of the best-loved Irish sporting stars.
And his appointment will breathe fresh life into Waterford - a club that for three decades have been living off past glories.
They need their profile raised. McGrath needs to feel useful again. His playing career ended five years ago. A new career starts today.
"I am extremely honoured to accept this position," said McGrath.
"I am looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead and I hope that I can lead Waterford United to the success that the club deserves.
"I am thrilled to be back involved in football and I can't wait to get stuck into the job."
Waterford United Chairman, Ger O'Brien was just as excited as his new recruit.
"For me, Paul McGrath is the one of the biggest sports stars ever to come out of this country," said O'Brien.
"As a player he was immense. As an analyst he is an expert. As a person he has incredible personal skills.
"He connects with people in a way that no one can believe.
"There have been stories about his personal life doing the rounds but I wouldn't dare criticise that situation.
"As far as I'm concerned his history is his own business, not mine. There is not a person in the world who can throw a stone at another individual with a clear conscience.
"Paul is a lovely man, very straight and clearly intelligent.
"He will work with us on the training field, on the commercial end of things and in an ambassadorial role."
Inevitably, though, there is scepticism. McGrath's reliability has been brought into question in the last six months.
Others point to his standing in the game - and then look at the eircom League - the sick man of Irish sport and wonder if he will fit in. …