Physio Mick Rathbone speaks about his career and England experience.
By Nicholas Veevers in Novi Sad.
England U17s go into their final Group A game at the European Championship Finals on Monday afternoon aiming to pick up three points against Serbia and hopefully progress to the semi-finals later this week.
And one member of the England staff has enjoyed his international experience so much, he admits he will be ‘gutted’ if the Young Lions don’t progress to Thursday’s last four.
Former Everton Head Of Sports Medicine, physio Mick ‘Baz’ Rathbone has been involved with the U17s since the start of the year, travelling with the squad to the Algarve Tournament in February and the Elite Qualifying Round in Belgium in March before sampling life in the Finals.
“It’s been absolutely fantastic,” admitted Rathbone. “When you’ve been involved in club football for so long, you don’t really understand or realise and appreciate how detailed it is and how much it means to everybody when you come away with England.
“I’ve been really enthused by the whole experience and the standard of the players and staff, the cohesiveness and the friendliness, the whole thing has been a fantastic experience for me.
“The further you get in these competitions, the more exciting it is and we now have a big, big game with Serbia and hopefully we can go through.
“It sounds like some kind of 'Pop Idol' programme, I don’t want to go home yet. We’ve been here for 12 days and no-one wants to go home.”
And for someone who has spent the last 18 years building his career off the pitch, he admits it’s been a strange timeline of events for him.
As a teenager, Rathbone represented England at youth level whilst playing for hometown club Birmingham City. From there, he went on to play as a full-back for Blackburn Rovers, Preston North End and Halifax Town before retiring in 1991.
He immediately undertook a physiotherapy course whilst working as a physio for Halifax before returning to Preston in 1995.
From there, he was part of the staff under the tutelage of David Moyes at Deepdale, who he eventually followed to Everton in 2002. He was at Goodison Park for eight years, before leaving at the end of the 2009-10 campaign.
“I look back on my life and there’s been this thread of repetitiveness,” he explained. “I played for the England youth team back in the mid-70s and I’m now the physio for the U17s.
“When I left Everton last year, I promised myself some time out, if you will. I’d worked nearly every day for 18 years and to be honest I was pretty burned out, so I had some time off and spent a couple of months away from it all.
“I had told Gary Lewin about a year ago that I was thinking about leaving Everton and he said that he would like me to be able to come and do some work for him for England, so I knew I could space it out over the year without it really interfering with any plans at home, so the whole thing has dovetailed really well.”
Rathbone certainly has no complaints at how his career has panned out though, having always wanted to get involved in the medical side of things following after a playing career which saw him make nearly 400 appearances in the Football League.
“When I finished playing at 33, you had to pull your finger out and get a job in those days, so I went to Salford University and became a chartered physio,” he said.
“I have worked my way right up from there, so it’s been a hell of a grind. I did my degree for two days a week and was working at Halifax for four days a week.
“I went to Preston when they were in the Fourth Division and had seven great years there, where I obviously met David Moyes who I have worked very closely with for 15 years in total and we had some great success together.
“I’ve been very lucky and even though I’ve had very few days off in the last 15 years, it’s paid off because I’ve been so successful. I’ve been around the world and worked at one of the greatest clubs in Everton and now the icing on the cake at 52 years of age is working for England.
“It’s been everything I thought it would be, and more.”
When England do return home from Serbia, Rathbone will get back to his Cheshire-based private clinic for the busy close season period, where he helps players on the road to recovery and full fitness
However, he is still not ruling out a return to the international scene next season, with any of the England development teams.
“I’ve got a private clinic at Mottram Hall, which is a rehabilitation centre based outside on pitches with footballs, so the busiest time for me is the close season,” he added.
“We’ll see how it goes, but I would be loathe to give this up because it’s been an amazing experience.”