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FOOTBALL: GERRY SAYS NO TO A JOB FOR THE BOYS.

Byline: BILL CLARK

GERRY TAGGART was offered a coaching job yesterday. It has no pay, no perks - and some of the players bring along their mums.

Yet Northern Ireland's long-lost centre-back and skipper was almost tempted to take on a bunch of six-year-olds, including his own son Daniel.

After nine months of utter frustration, the Leicester City patient is tempted into almost any kind of involvement with the game.

Complicated knee surgery has condemned Taggart to lonely daily rehab in gyms and swimming pools. The only colleagues he meets are Darren Eadie and Gary Rowett, also with long-term injuries.

"Watching Daniel is the closest I get to a ball," says Taggart. "He's a defender like me but it was entirely his own idea to join a club.

"Some of the parents asked me to teach the kids but I think it's wiser to stay a spectator."

The collapse of Leicester since Martin O'Neill's departure to Celtic has passed Taggart by. He never hears a team talk or shares the current angst of the training pitch.

"I attend home games," he says, "but I'm not close to the squad. When Leicester are away, I put in the day with my family.

"It's very hard to see the team in so much trouble and be unable to help."

And Taggart's absence clearly has much to do with Leicester's appalling goals-against statistic - they have conceded 51 Premiership goals while scoring just 19.

Taggart accepts that the club face First Division football next season. "We're almost certainly going down," he admits.

"It's almost better to be used to the idea than get a sickener on the last day."

A year remains on Taggart's contract but the 31-year-old, who began his career at Manchester City 13 years ago and has also played for Barnsley and Bolton, sees the future as uncertain.

"With the club having to finance a new stadium, Leicester may well be forced to unload a few people," he says. "I have no idea what they intend for me.

"All I'm concentrating on is complete recovery. There has been no bad reaction from surgery and I'm finally running again.

"Leicester want us back for a special training week at the end of May and I intend to be part of it."

Taggart is equally upbeat about challenging for a place in Sammy McIlroy's 2004 European Championship squad.

"By September when the games begin, I should be 100 per cent," he insists. "We begin pre-season work at Filbert Street on July 1."

And Taggart is keen to prove to the Northern Ireland boss that he has not seen the best of him yet.

Unknowingly, the big man was playing at world level with a nodule the size of a large cherry stone floating in his knee which caused him constant, nagging pain.

It finally became too much to bear on the day of Taggart's 50th cap more than a year ago.

At half-time against Norway, he had to hand over the captain's armband to Jim Magilton - and he has been missing ever since.

CAPTION(S):

GERRY HELL: Veteran defender Taggart finds it hard to cope with his long-term knee injury; GERRY HAPPY: Taggart before injury
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 17, 2002
Words:531
Previous Article:FOOTBALL: KELLY HAPPY TO PAY UP.
Next Article:FOOTBALL: I'LLSTAND BY BOYS WHO GOT US IN; McCarthy preaches loyalty in Big Apple.


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