Doctor Waller signs off for England
Wednesday, 03 March, 2010
Under-21s doctor prepares for final game on the bench.
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For nearly ten years Doctor Mark Waller has been a key figure in the Under-21s set-up. Tonight, as Stuart Pearce’s men take on Greece at Doncaster, ‘Doc’ will see his final game from the England bench.
His first match with the Under-21s was in August 2001 as England beat Georgia 6-1 at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium. Since then he’s gone on to become more than just a doctor in the eyes of Coach Pearce, and has seen the Three Lions in action in three major European Final tournaments.
“He’s been the best doctor I’ve worked with,” said Pearce. “That’s no disrespect to anyone else, he’s worth his weight in gold.
“He’s not only the doctor but he seems to be the focal point of everything that goes on within the set-up and his job touches everybody within the squad.
“He’s got that balance right between his professionalism and being a light-hearted member of the back-up staff. He’ll be greatly missed.”
And when the final whistle goes tonight, the Liverpool FC doctor will have some fantastic memories of a decade with England, and he says he’ll always be a fan of the team.
“I am sure I will feel emotional, but probably better if we get the three points against Greece,” said Waller. “I’ve worked with some wonderful people in my time with the Under-21s, both staff and players.
"I will miss the contact with the players of other clubs, many of whom over the years I have seen grow from hesitant teenagers to great international players.”
He continued: “I remember when we played against Holland in Heerenveen (in the Euro 2007 semi-final) and they equalised late in the game. We had players who bravely finished the game despite having injuries that would have sidelined many, less stoical, individuals.
“An indicator of the team spirit Stuart created in that group was shown when all of the staff and substitutes stood with arms linked, in resolute solidarity, on the touchline for the penalty shootout. 32 penalties later England lost 13-12. Stuart gathered all staff and players in the centre circle and gave a speech that I still remember today. The emotion felt that evening will stay with me in perpetuity.”
When Dr Waller returns to Anfield on Thursday, where he has been club doctor since his appointment after the Hillsborough Tragedy in April 1989, he will be replaced in the Under-21s set-up by Sheffield Wednesday doctor Richard Higgins, who has been with the squad for his first get-together in Doncaster this week.
“He is an extremely competent and experienced doctor who does not need me to tell him how to do the job,” said Waller, “but if he needs any advice my door will always be open for him.”
He added: “I am an England fan as well as the doctor and I will watch every game I can. When they, hopefully, reach the Finals in June 2011 I’ll be on the telephone for tickets.
“I feel that I have been extremely privileged to have worked as the team doctor with the England-Under 21 team and will miss everyone involved.”
Tickets for this game remain on sale at just £10 for adults and £5 for concessions (under 16 and over 60) and can be booked via the Keepmoat Stadium ticket hotline on 01302 762 576.
The match kicks off at the earlier time of 6pm prior to the England senior team’s 8pm fixture with Egypt at Wembley and will also be screened live on ESPN.