‘The Limping Physio’ and working with Gazza & Pleat

An interview with John Sheridan, by Callum McFadden for Wireless.

You have written your autobiography, ‘The Limping Physio’, which documents your life in football. Can you describe what the title means to those who don’t know your unique story?

“Well, like most young boys and girls, I loved playing football and I played as much as I could every day as a youngster.

“Unfortunately I had to stop playing football at 14 because I broke my femur in three places on my left leg.

“It caused me to limp because the injury happened while I was still growing which caused my right leg to be four inches longer than my left leg.

“I had to have surgery to shorten my right leg to bring it in line with the left leg, which means I’ve shrunk over 6ft to 5ft 9in, although even with the surgery the lameness remained.

“However, despite the hassles and worries of that time, it was worth it for me because if I hadn’t had the operation, I would have needed a long-term cane, which wasn’t not ideal for me given my young age and how long in my life I was to come.

Did you worry about the reaction the fans would have on a professional level to your limping when you had to run around the pitch during a game?

“It doesn’t matter if you have a limp or not. You always get the stick from opposition club fans, so I was trying to appease them by bowing to them.

“I would do it on all grounds, regardless of the size of the opposition. Whether at Old Trafford or Anfield, I always pretended to take off my cap.

“It tended to work and I had a lot of great receptions from fans from different clubs as I ran around the pitch.”

David Pleat brought you into professional football as a physio at Luton Town in 1979. How did it feel to step into the game you love under a manager with real playing pedigree?

“David is a wonderful man who gave me a chance and didn’t care about my limp.

“He was always supportive of his staff and was no different with me. You could talk to him at any time about any issue and he would give you the time and respect to speak openly.

“David has done a good job at Luton winning promotion to the Premier League and playing an attractive brand of football at the club. It was brilliant and it’s no surprise the interest from other clubs was there for him.

“I still have a great relationship with him to this day and I can honestly say he changed my life because I never considered having the opportunity to work in the professional game given my background. , but he had this confidence in me.”

After nine successful years at Luton Town, David moved to Tottenham Hotspur and took you with him. During your time in North London you had a strong working relationship with Paul Gascoigne. What did Gazza enjoy working with?

“Paul was a big boy. A fun-loving Geordie who loves his football. He’s the best player I’ve worked with in my career.

“I had a great relationship with him as a physio because you could have a good laugh with him and he trusted you to look after him and his best interests whenever he needed treatment.

“He suffered a horrific injury in 1991 when he tore his cruciate ligaments in the FA Cup final against Nottingham Forest. So we were close after that as we worked together on his rehabilitation every day. until we can get it back in shape.

“Paul did everything I asked of him during this period and he worked hard to get back into shape after such a dangerous injury.

“He used to joke with me that he had more catch-up shows than Radio 2 (laughs). It was Paul.

“Such was the media interest in Paul and his recovery, we sometimes worked at my house to escape the media spotlight.

“I was just delighted that he got back into shape and was able to move to Lazio in Rome because he was a great player who deserved to have a great career, which he finally did. in the UK and Italy.

You worked with Glenn Hoddle when he was a player, then also when he was a coach. What was it like working with another highly regarded footballer in European football?

“Glenn was a lovely man. I found him easy to work with and he had great respect for me when he was playing.

“That respect showed when he asked me to go and help him as a physio at Chelsea for a few games when he became a coach there, which I did.

“He wanted me to join him permanently at Chelsea, but I was happy to be a physiotherapy consultant at Luton at this stage of my career.

“I have to be honest and say that all the best players I worked with were brilliant. It meant a lot to me because I’m a huge fan of quality football and players.

“Guys like Gascoigne, Hoddle and Chris Waddle are the type of players I would pay to go watch. They were breathtaking to watch and made your spine vibrate.

“These types of players were majestic and I’m very lucky to have been able to not only watch top players like these, but also to work with them.”

During your career, you have been invited to Anfield’s famous boot room after a match. How would you sum up this experience?

“I was at Luton and we drew 3-3 at Anfield after having to put our defender Kirk Stephens in goal at 1-1 in the game after our regular keeper Jake Finlay suffered a serious injury.

“I was on the pitch at Anfield a lot that day because of the injury and other little worries for our players.

“After the game, I walked up the tunnel to the outside dressing room when I was called into the famous dressing room.

“It was an amazing experience. I walked in and immediately tasted the Guinness that was given to me.

“It was amazing because I was in the middle of gaming legends in Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan. It was surreal to sit in a room with them having a drink and listening to their stories.

“I just sat there listening intently. I learned so much from them. It is an experience I will never forget.

“I have to say it wasn’t just the legends of Liverpool who treated me well. I was lucky enough to be treated well wherever I went.

“I would work at Old Trafford and Sir Alex would chat with me and all the staff, as Sir Bobby Robson would. It was a beautiful time in which to get involved.

Finally, John, where can our readers buy the book because it has so many interesting stories?

“The book was something I’m delighted to have done and I hope football fans of all clubs will enjoy the stories and insight into my era of the game within it.”


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