PAUL McGRATH is still treated like a god by Aston Villa fans and the former Ireland defender believes Richard Dunne will soon be the fans’ new hero and Mark Hughes will regret the day he sold him.
Both players moved down to Birmingham from Manchester at the age of 29 and the manner in which Manchester City discarded their loyal captain was similar to the way United shunted McGrath out of the door.
McGrath’s off-field drinking took years off his career but he is full of praise for Villa’s new £6m signing, who put an end to his bad-boy behaviour.
“A few years ago, I was hearing one or two things about Richard that weren’t great,” said McGrath.
“He was a bit of a bad lad but someone sat him down and told him to be a proper footballer or carry on messing about and ruin your career. He’s decided to go the right way and thank goodness he has, because he’s been unbelievable. I think Kevin Keegan had a quiet word with him and turned him into a much better player. He decided to stop larking about and going out and doing the wrong stuff. He decided to concentrate on football and since he’s done that, he’s been Ireland’s best player.
“He’s been one of the best City players for years and I’m amazed they’ve actually let him go to another club who are up and coming and who could be challenging them this year.
“Mark Hughes can buy any player he wants now but I think he might regret selling Richard Dunne because I think he’ll turn out to be an excellent signing for Aston Villa.”
Villa Park’s Holte End still chants ‘Ooh Aah Paul McGrath’, and ‘It’s Your Round My Lord’ in honour of the former St Pats defender, and Dunne will be wearing McGrath’s number five shirt when he makes his debut on Sunday against fierce local rivals Birmingham City.
“I went from Manchester United to Aston Villa when I was exactly the same age, so he’s still got years ahead of him in the game,” said McGrath.
“I arrived in a bit of a knackered state and I know Martin Laursen had his injury problems, too.
“With Richard, Villa have got a real class act whose body is perfectly healthy and he can do even better.
I think he could prove to be a real bargain. He’s going to serve Villa well.
“He has not got a great record with his red cards [he shares the record for red cards in the Premier League with Patrick Vieira and Duncan Ferguson – all three men have collected eight], but that’s because he’s so committed and he’s cleaned up off the field.
“For a big man, he’s got pace as well. He’s a hell of a lot quicker than I ever believed he was.
“When I first saw him, I thought he wouldn’t be that quick and I thought he could be caught out a few times but I was wrong and I don’t think I’ve seen too many centre-forwards do him for pace.
“Of course, he’s great in the air and he’s a leader as well, so I think he’ll be great.”
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