BONNER’S BATH CHAT
Irish legend Packie recalls Reading rows over George Weah’s ‘best mate’
PACKIE Bonner is remembered as a Celtic and Republic of Ireland goalkeeping great – but he did also have an underwhelming spell as assistant manager to Tommy Burns at Reading in the late 90s.
In his new autobiography, Packie Bonner – The Last Line, he tells a great story about Mass Sarr Jr, a Liberian they signed from Croatian side Hadjuk Split.
“Mass had one of those fantastic debuts for the club where, I kid you not, he played like Pele. After the match, it was the custom of Tommy, myself and Reading coach Stevie Kean to stretch out in the individual baths in the dressing room and shoot the breeze.That day,there was only one subject.
“Tommy started it.‘What about Mass Sarr? Whose idea was it to sign him?’
“Stevie and I disagreed.‘No, it was me Tommy,’ I asserted just ahead of Stevie who was adamant that he had spotted Mass’s potential when he went to Croatia to see him play and we, all three of us, argued the toss over who had made the deal.
“Tommy had the final say – ‘I am the manager so I’m responsible’.
“Unfortunately, Mass’s debut proved to be a false dawn and he never, ever played as well as that again for us. I wondered for a while if we had misread his CV and mistook Liberian for Librarian!
“Cue the postmatch bath, then, a few months later, when the three of us were once again stretched out, this time after a less-than-thrilling performance from George Weah’s ‘best mate’.
“Tommy started it again.‘Right, who the f**k was responsible for signing Mass Sarr again? It certainly wasn’t ME!’
“And, yes, you guessed it, Stevie and I put up an equal fight like Simon Peter before the cock crowed!”
Bonner also tells a nice tale from around the time when nowIpswich manager Mick McCarthy was in charge of the Republic of Ireland, following in the footsteps of the legendary Jack Charlton.
They were at Dublin Airport Hotel having a coffee when a couple of older ladies started looking at McCarthy.
“Eventually one came over. ‘Ah, now – I know your face.’ Mick just smiled as I started to laugh but she persisted.
“‘Ah, I definitely know you. Are you on the TV?’ But still Mick never responded with his name so she went away, only to return moments later with a large smile on her face. “‘Ah, I DO know you.You’re the football manager.The new Irish manager…’
“This time Mick nodded only for her to say... ‘You’re JACK McCarthy, aren’t you?’”