Bernie McNally on World Cups, Shrewsbury, West Brom, Ossie Ardiles, Telford, India and why he won’t manage again after a serious health scare

“The specialist even said it was a heart attack waiting to happen, so I was counting my blessings. It makes you realise that some things are more important than football.”

During their careers footballers are lucky if they are held in high regard by one set of supporters.

For Bernie McNally, he is in a select group of ex professionals held in high regard, still to this day, by not just one but two sets of supporters.

The former Shrewsbury Town and West Brom midfielder played over 150 games for both clubs, and is still highly thought of in Shropshire and the Black Country.

He then went on to manage in four different countries, but as the 57-year-old has revealed in this honest interview, his days in the dug out as a number one are all but over.

A serious heart scare in recent years have put things in perspective and he has decided to call time on his management career.

The former midfielder revealed: “I’m not fussed anymore about going back to be a manager.

“In the last two years I’ve ended up being diagnosed with angina and I’ve actually had four stents put into my heart.

“I had three in one procedure and it made me look at things. The specialist even said it was a heart attack waiting to happen, so I was counting my blessings.

“You then think about what happened with Justin Edinburgh as well.

“There is a lot of pressure in football management even at the bottom level, it is ridiculous.

“So I’m glad my issue was nipped in the bud and I feel really great now. I can go for a walk without getting out of breath after 50 metres, which is fantastic.

“That is when life comes into play and it makes you realise some things are more important than football.”

But despite the recent health scare, McNally is hoping his time in football as a whole isn’t at an end.

“I am still looking at one or two things when football gets back fully,” added the former AFC Telford United manager.

“I want to be involved and I’ve done bits of coaching around the non-league and there are one or two things pending, so if something comes off it will be a nice little part time thing.”

The end of McNally’s management days come 40 years after his playing career began with Shrewsbury Town.

Salop were then in what is now the Championship and the former midfielder, who played 279 games for the Shrews still looks back fondly on that era.

“It was the old second division and when you look back it was like little old Shrewsbury at that level, what a great time that was,” added McNally.

“I was lucky enough to make my debut in 1980 and then went from strength to strength under Graham Turner who was a great manager.”

During McNally’s time at the Gay Meadow the Salop boss Chic Bates encouraged McNally to explore his Irish heritage.

It was one of the best pieces of advice the midfielder could receive as it led to him experiencing something 99 per cent of professionals never get to experience.

McNally explained: “I had family in Ireland and Chic told me to look into it, and he was kind of blunt and said: ‘let’s be fair Bern, you’re not going to play for England’.”

“He was right and I went and looked into it, and I was like a lot of players who had one Irish parent and one English.

“Billy Bingham the manager came to look at me, I was selected and I look back on it with great affection.

“I went to the Mexico World Cup in 1986, and there is not many players that can say that.

“There are far better players than me who were never selected or got the chance to go to a World Cup.

“I was fortunate that Northern Ireland had a good side with the likes of Sammy McIlroy, Norman Whiteside, Pat Jennings was still playing.

“You look back and think ‘wow what a great achievement that was’, and I wish I had savoured it a bit more now.”

McNally won five caps for his country but unfortunately none of them came in Mexico.

However the former playmaker still has memories that will always stick with him, including one involving one of Brazil’s greats.

“I was on the bench getting splinters in my backside and I remember the great Zico came on for Brazil,” explained McNally

“He came on for 20 minutes and one of the lads said he was getting $20,000 for wearing Adidas boots.

“$20,000 for 20 minutes work is like $200,000 today.

“We also played against Romania and the great Gheorghe Hagi played, and he was great to watch.

“I remember thinking he reminded me of George Best. So it was a great time with lots of memories, some that slip your mind sometimes.”

McNally, pictured, won promotion from the Old Second Division with West Brom

Then after nine years at Shrewsbury Town McNally was on the move as Brian Talbot paid £385,000 to secure his signature at West Brom.

He almost moved two years earlier with Ron Atkinson making an approach for the midfielder.

McNally’s highlight for the Baggies was the 1992/93 promotion as Albion won the Second Division play off final to return to the old First Division.

It was in that season that he played under Spurs and Argentina legend Ossie Ardiles, someone McNally has likened to an early Pep Guardiola.

“Ossie was such a breath of fresh air to other managers who wanted to lump it in the corner and get you squeezed up, said the former midfielder.

“He would get it out and pass from the back and it was fantastic there, culminating in the play off final.

“It was a sea of Albion shirts that day and out of something like 52,000 fans, 42,000 of them were from West Brom.

“I remember my time at West Brom with fondness. It was the time when the Premier League was just coming around and it was a good time in football.

“Under Ossie it was like what Pep Guardiola does today, the way they play at City.

“I was a playmaker so I really enjoyed it and we scored 100 goals that season which was no mean feat.

“And it is nice to always be thought of well at West Brom for that promotion.”

McNally then finished in professional football in 1995, going in to finish his playing career at Hednesford Town in the old Vauxhall Conference.

The Northern Irishman helped them to fourth and they also took on all comers in the FA Cup, finishing with a huge game with big boys Middlesbrough.

It was in the late 90s that McNally started on his coaching badges and on a journey to becoming a UEFA Pro Licence coach.

But he admits he wishes he would have done his coaching preparation when he was playing, like one of his other former team mates.

“I wish I would have done them back then, like David Moyes did when we were at Shrewsbury,” said McNally.

“Has a determined lad and we used to take the mick out of him, but Dave always said he was going to be a manager.

“I think he used that micky taking as motivation and he has done well with all the jobs he has had and he is doing a great job now at West Ham.”

Then in 2004, over four years after bringing his playing career to a close McNally was taking his first steps into management at the re-born AFC Telford United.

The old club had run up big debts and under the new name were starting life as a brand new entity in the Northern Premier League Division One.

It was the new Telford’s first season and the first season in management for the rookie McNally. And he delivered.

“It was my first year and we got a promotion and everything went really well,” explained McNally.

“We had good up and coming players and it all just gelled really, and it all came down to the play off final against Kendal Town.

“There were over 4,000 fans there which was fantastic and it was a great occasion.

“It showed that Telford was still a big, big club in non-league and it still is today.

“Hopefully under Gavin Cowan they can one day get back to where they were.”

McNally earned promotion during his first season in management

Despite the success of the first campaign, McNally lost defender Duane Courtney to Burnley for £50,000 and striker Alfie Carter and couldn’t emulate the success of the first season.

“We didn’t replace those players and things didn’t go well really, and I ended up getting the bullet but these things happen, it is all about results,” added McNally.

Then came two stints abroad as McNally swapped the cold Tuesday nights in non-league football for India.

He managed Pune FC for four months, before going on to a have a spell at a club in Romania, something he wouldn’t recommend to other young coaches.

“Someone mentioned to me about getting out of my comfort zone so I went and gave it a try for four months, and we did really well,” added McNally.

“They wanted me to go back for 10 months but I didn’t want to be away from my family so I turned it down.

“Then I went to Romania to a team called Gloria Buzau. I had met someone on my pro licence and he asked me about going to Romania.

“I was there for four and a half months and that was an experience I wouldn’t want to go back to.

“Away from football you don’t get paid properly and then you’re family are struggling at home because you’re being drip fed wages, so I decided to leave.

“Some clubs in different places offer you this money then you never get it.”

McNally then returned to Hednesford Town as a manager, before he then swapped England for Wales, spending two years with Newtown AFC in the Welsh Premier League.

“I really enjoyed my days at Newtown to be honest, and in hindsight I wish I had stayed there a bit longer,” admitted McNally.

“I had been at Newtown and Graham Turner was the manager at Shrewsbury and he invited me back in the youth set up there.

“I couldn’t turn it down but Graham resigned and they changed things around and I went, and again, these things happen.”

McNally spent two years at Newtown AFC

In a bid to try and stay in management, McNally, who resides in Birmingham, accepted another job in the Welsh Premier League at Port Talbot Town.

Despite the warnings the travelling would be took much for him, McNally proceeded to take the job but after a few months he resigned.

“I was a great learning curve for me,” added McNally.

“My wife said it was too much, as I was travelling three hours there and three back on Wednesday nights for training, getting home at 1.30am and up for work at 5.30am.

“It was an experience but the travelling caught up in the end, I was physically and mentally exhausted in the end.

“One or two things about the team were questioned and there was an opportunity to resign after three months, so I said I would step away.

“It was the first time in football I was relieved to leave a club, but not because of the club, the people were great and they worked so hard down there.

“But the travelling was too much and I was relieved I could spend the next six weeks in bed until 10am on a Saturday, instead of getting up for all the travelling!”

Since then McNally has been working for a construction company while doing bits of coaching with clubs such as Droitwich Spa and Rushall Olympic.

And he is happy with his current situation, rather than trying to remain in football management on part time wages.

“There is the stress and pressure of it and at Port Talbot I did realise I wasn’t getting any younger,” added the 57-year-old.

“People outside football still think non-league money is good and people earn a lot.

“But most are getting £150 to £200 a week and you cannot survive on that.

“At times after playing I was trying to do that on part time wages, apart from Telford where I was full time.

“Now I’m in a position where I work and then if I do get a coaching role, that can be something on top, a bit of something extra.”

McNally could soon be back on the sideline or on a training pitch in the West Midlands as a number two or a coach.

And he will be using all that experience of management and playing that he has accumulated in the last 40 years.

Alongside those experiences he holds the proud memories from not one but two or his professional clubs.

“I go back to Shrewsbury and West Brom now. I do my Shropshire Star column with the Shrewsbury stuff, and with West Brom I’m linked in with the old players there.

“So I go back and to Q and As and have an opportunity to meet people and it is nice to be held in high regard by two sets of supporters.”

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