Paul Bo­er­tien tells us of bizarre jus­tice at Wal­sall – and much more

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE: - By Chris Dunlavy

PAUL Bo­er­tien is the first to ad­mit his play­ing ca­reer wasn’t ex­actly sprin­kled with star­dust. “I al­ways seemed to be bat­tling rel­e­ga­tion or knock­ing about in mid-ta­ble,” laughs the for­mer Carlisle, Derby, Wal­sall and Bur­ton full-back. “There def­i­nitely weren’t any glit­ter­ing suc­cesses!”

Nor was it with­out pain. In the space of ten years, he suf­fered a bro­ken kneecap, torn cru­ci­ate, another frac­tured knee, me­dial lig­a­ment dam­age and was twice ad­vised by spe­cial­ists to throw in the towel.

But does the 36-year-old care? Not a bit. Grow­ing up in the Northum­ber­land out­post of Haltwhis­tle, all Bo­er­tien ever wanted to do was play football for a liv­ing.

And af­ter ris­ing from the depths of the Third Di­vi­sion to play at Old Traf­ford and An­field, he re­tired in 2011 with his life’s am­bi­tion ful­filled.

Here he tells us which Eng­land star tied him in knots, which man­ager di­vided and con­quered – and why a gi­ant cud­dly bird dis­pensed sum­mary jus­tice at Wal­sall...


Carlisle United. I was ac­tu­ally on trial at Sun­der­land but they never took me on so that ob­vi­ously didn’t go too well. But Nick In­gle, the guy who’d rec­om­mended me, was con­vinced I was good enough and set me up another trial at Carlisle.

A week later I was of­fered a one­and-a-half year YTS. They’d just won pro­mo­tion at the time and had a re­ally good side – peo­ple like Matt Jansen and Rory De­lap. I ended up stay­ing there for two or three years.


I worked un­der a cou­ple of good ones – and a cou­ple of bad ones. Jim Smith was my first man­ager at Derby. He was re­ally old school but very good tac­ti­cally.

But the one I liked best was John Gre­gory. He was just my kind of man­ager – train­ing was re­ally en­joy­able, he was al­ways pos­i­tive and up­beat. And it helped that he liked the way I played too!

Mind you, I must say that I re­ally liked Best man­ager: Billy Davies. I John Gre­gory know he’s got a bit of a rep­u­ta­tion but he is very good at what he does and his record bears that out. He’s foren­sic in his at­ten­tion to de­tail.

His prob­lem is that he tries to forge a siege men­tal­ity. Billy wants it to be him and the play­ers against the world. For the lads in the dress­ing room, it’s great. They all like him. But even­tu­ally that rubs the chair­man up the wrong way, the di­rec­tors or the Press.

I’m sure he’ll get another job and I’m sure he’ll do well. But I’m also sure he’d end up caus­ing trou­ble again!


It would have to be Ste­fano Eranio. He was just on a dif­fer­ent level. He’d played for AC Mi­lan and had prob­a­bly had his best years be­fore he came to Eng­land.

But ev­ery­thing was still there – his touch and tech­nique were out of this world. To be hon­est, I could never un­der­stand what he was do­ing at Derby!

I’ll al­ways re­mem­ber we went for a warm down, which was ba­si­cally a walk round the golf course. Ste­fano walked round the whole course – and I’m not ex­ag­ger­at­ing – and kept a football up the en­tire way.

He was up and down hills, in be­tween trees. I was walk­ing round think­ing ‘Am I re­ally see­ing this?’ If that was me I’d have been chas­ing all over the place. He never even broke stride.

I played with Georgi Kin­kladze, Fabrizio Ra­vanelli. But none of them matched the out-and-out class of Eranio.

And the best thing was, he was a proper nice guy to go with it. He wasn’t the least bit big time, worked re­ally hard, al­ways had time for the young lads like me. I wish I could have played with him longer.


To the Premier League with Derby in 2007 – though I never re­ally felt part of it. I’d started the sea­son and done quite well. But then I got in­jured and ended up mak­ing just 13 ap­pear­ances. I wasn’t even in the squad for the play-off fi­nal, then got re­leased in the sum­mer.

I do won­der what might have been. I’d played 11 games in a row and Billy Davies seemed to be happy with me. You never know any­thing for cer­tain in football but, if I hadn’t got in­jured, I do think I would have been of­fered a new con­tract.

But that’s typ­i­cal of me – I’ve never re­ally had glit­ter­ing suc­cesses in my ca­reer. I was al­ways fight­ing rel­e­ga­tion or knock­ing about in mid-ta­ble!


I’ve played with so many but Seth John­son was prob­a­bly the cra­zi­est. He would ham­mer your clothes, ham­mer your car, ham­mer ev­ery­one – even the man­ager.

Stephen Hughes at Wal­sall was funny, too. He was com­ing to the end of his ca­reer and maybe didn’t en­joy football as much as he had. He was just there for a good time and that made him a lot of fun to be around.


When we were at Wal­sall, we used to have these ‘court cases’ when­ever any­one dis­puted a club fine.

It could be for any­thing – be­ing late for train­ing, go­ing on a night out, miss­ing a so­cial. The ac­cused came into the dress­ing room and one player would be the judge whilst the rest of us were the jury.

One time, a cou­ple of lads had done some­thing wrong and Tommy Mooney was the judge. But Tommy – another re­ally funny guy – came into the room wear­ing the mas­cot’s cos­tume, which at the time was this big bird called Swifty.

He didn’t say a thing, just sat down and went through the whole process. Watch­ing these lads plead their case to a gi­ant furry bird with a big grin was hi­lar­i­ous!


Stay­ing up with Derby in 2001. We had Man United away then Ip­swich – who fin­ished fifth that year – at home and knew we’d prob­a­bly have to win at least one.

All the pun­dits were say­ing we wouldn’t get another point but we went to Old Traf­ford and won 1-0 to stay up with a game to spare.

They had Beck­ham, Sc­holes, Keane at their peak. They ab­so­lutely

bat­tered us but some­how man­aged not to score.To win at Man U any time is rare but un­der those cir­cum­stances made it even more spe­cial.


Go­ing down the fol­low­ing year. We were strug­gling all sea­son and it even­tu­ally hap­pened at An­field.We lost 2-0, Michael Owen scored twice. I am a big Liver­pool sup­porter so it was an es­pe­cially tough day for me. Play­ing against them was the high­light of my sea­son but not that year.


I al­ways found Leeds fairly dif­fi­cult. I got bat­tered 3-0 with Derby once. I got bat­tered 3-0 with Wal­sall. El­land Road is fa­mous for its in­tim­i­dat­ing at­mos­phere and whether that had an ef­fect, I don’t know. But I al­ways got bad re­sults there. And un­for­tu­nately, I played them more than most be­cause I went down the leagues with them!


I would have said Liver­pool but that day in 2002 prob­a­bly soured it for me. So I’ve got to say Old Traf­ford. Win­ning in front of 67,000 was prob­a­bly my best mo­ment in the game.


Joe Cole. It was dur­ing his West Ham days and he was play­ing in cen­tral mid­field with Michael Car­rick. They also had Trevor Sin­clair, Paolo Di Canio – what a team that was.

We got Ben­ito Car­bone sent off early, which opened up a bit of space. He used ev­ery inch of it and ab­so­lutely tore us to bits that day.

At his peak he was re­ally quick and full of tricks. He was pulling them all off that af­ter­noon and our en­tire mid­field was chas­ing shad­ows.

He was an un­be­liev­able tal­ent and at the time I thought he was go­ing to be the next Paul Gas­coigne. But in­juries knocked him back and I don’t think he ever be­came the player he could have.


It’s funny but I’ve kind of al­ready achieved it. All I ever wanted was to be a pro­fes­sional foot­baller and I spent nearly 15 years liv­ing the dream.

Now, I just want to spend time with my kids, watch them grow up and help them be the best they can in life.

Be­yond that, I sup­pose I’d like to do some kind of coach­ing, but not at the pro­fes­sional level. I’d love to help kids who play for fun but I don’t ever want to be the per­son who stands in front of a 16-year-old and shat­ters his dreams.

Big­gest achieve­ment: Premier League sur­vival at Old Traf­ford

Fun­ni­est in­ci­dent: Big bird Swifty

Best man­ager: john Gre­gory

Low­est Mo­ment: Rel­e­ga­tion at An­field

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

IN FULL FLOW: Paul Bo­er­tien in ac­tion for Derby County against As­ton Villa

Best player: Ste­fano Eranio

Tough­est op­po­nent: Joe Cole

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