Tommy McNamara is next up in our My Favorite Player series…
Following in the footsteps of Jack Harrison (Ronaldinho), Khiry Shelton (Thierry Henry), Ethan White (Carles Puyol), Ronald Matarrita (Ronaldo), Sean Okoli (Zlatan Ibrahimovic) and Sean Johnson (Edwin van der Sar), it’s T-Mac himself with a great story.
McNamara goes for a contributor to Leeds United’s UEFA Champions League fairytale at the turn of the century… Stephen McPhail.
Tommy on McPhail…
“My favorite player growing up was Stephen McPhail. He was my best friend’s first cousin, he’s Irish and he broke in at Leeds when they were in the heyday and he’s had a really long, successful career – he’s just retired now actually.
“I heard about him growing up being so close to his family and then at about 10-years old I had the opportunity to go over with some of mine and his family to watch Leeds play. Unfortunately, he was hurt that day but I got to spend some time with him that day and to see my idol when I was that young was great.
“He picked us up in his car which at that age was the coolest thing for me – he was really great to us. After the game, at the hotel, we met Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell – so it was just a really special time for me and it really kicked into life my desire to do this for a career.”
Stephen McPhail: The Leeds Fairytale
Although Leeds never went on to lift the UEFA Champions League under Head Coach David O’Leary in 2000/01, they went closer than anyone thought possible.
McPhail was a crucial member of that squad, appearing in games against Barcelona and Lazio, helping the Yorkshire outfit to the semifinals where eventual champions Valencia finally ended their dream run.
Stephen had emerged through the youth ranks at the Elland Road club where he won the prestigious FA Youth Cup in 1996/97.
Many of those involved in that triumph went on to become main players in the future successes under O’Leary and McPhail himself went on to make 78 league appearances for the club, although it would have been many more had it not been for a series of niggling injuries.
McPhail went on to spend the lion’s share of the rest of his career at Cardiff City where he helped the Bluebirds to the FA Cup final in 2008 and the Carling Cup final in 2012 – the same year he was named Clubman of the Year.
The Irishman finished his career in Ireland playing for Shamrock Rovers between 2014 and 2016.
He won 10 caps for the Republic of Ireland, scoring once against South Africa in June 2000.
Stephen retired from football in 2016 and became Sporting Director at Shamrock Rovers shortly after.
Leeds United: 1995-2004
Cardiff City: 2006-2013
Sheffield Wednesday 2013-2014
Shamrock Rovers: 2014-2016
FA Youth Cup: 1997