McAteer, aged 33 and the holder of 52 International caps, has had his run with Ireland interrupted regularly over the past couple of seasons by injuries. After being forced to ask the Irish manager not to consider him for tomorrow’s game against Cyprus and Wednesday’s match against Switzerland, he decided to call a halt.
He said: “To retire from competing for your country is probably the toughest decision for any sportsman. I am now 33-years-old and have suffered with a couple of injuries in recent years which has affected me both mentally and physically. I feel the time is right to step aside and let the talented youngsters have a go.”
Kerr praised McAteer for his responsible attitude and commented: “Jason rang me yesterday to tell me. I don’t know what is contained in today’s statement but he rang me to say ‘looks like you are doing okay without me. I’m thinking of saying I’m retiring from international football but if you’re stuck give us a ring and I’ll be delighted to come in’.”
McAteer was first capped by Jack Charlton in a scoreless draw against Russia in March 1994. He made his international reputation with some fine performances in the World Cup finals in the USA.
McAteer was always a popular member of the Irish squad. He was recognised as a prankster and during that World Cup tournament he together with Gary Kelly and Phil Babb became known as the “Three Amigos”.
He began his professional career with Bolton before Liverpool came calling. He was a central midfield player with Bolton but played virtually all of his football with Liverpool and Ireland on the right of midfield.
In 1999 he moved to Blackburn for stg£4 million before joining Sunderland where he was captain of the team for a period last season under manager Mick McCarthy. He was transferred to Tranmere before the start of the current season.
Said Kerr: “I was delighted that he rang me to tell me about it and to discuss it with me and that he wasn’t ruling out a return if we needed him.
“He understood how the team has developed and how things had changed for him and that he’s had a little difficult time.
“He’s been a fantastic player ... we didn’t get to use him too much since I came in because of injuries he hasn’t been available.
“He hasn’t put a string of games together since I’ve been the manager except for the Brazil match and I put him in then because I intended to keep him in the squad.
“But then we had the Summer games and things had changed again ... he wasn’t available for those and he’s changed clubs. He has a more responsible role at Tranmere.
“Things have been going quite well for them since the start of the season but he’s probably still suffering some of the knocks and bumps and soreness from various injuries he’s picked up along the way and the wear and tear of the years of long service he’s given to Ireland and to his club.”