Loved from Merseyside to Tyneside: McDermott tales must be cherished
Loved from Merseyside to Tyneside: Terry McDermott will be backed all the way in dementia battle with diagnosis a reminder of cherished memories from a life of silverware and laughter
- Former Liverpool and Newcastle star Terry McDermott has dementia
- The much-loved ex-midfielder received overwhelming support in his battle
- McDermott’s wit and funny stories are cherished by fans across the country
Terry McDermott was at Anfield on Saturday and, the weekend before, St James’ Park.
Those supporters of Liverpool and Newcastle who waved, hollered, smiled and sang towards him knew nothing of his dementia diagnosis.
He does not, then, need tributes such as this to know just how loved and respected he is on his native Merseyside and adopted Tyneside.
Terry McDermott received a flood of support after his dementia diagnosis was announced
The former Liverpool midfielder’s decorated career was supported by a life filled with laughter
But, in the hours after his dementia battle was revealed on Saturday evening, the kind words of friends and strangers have been a source of great warmth and reassurance to McDermott, his wife Carole and three children, Neale, Rachel and Greg.
When the former England star next takes a stroll in his home village of Ponteland, buys a newspaper or goes for a pint in The Diamond, the support and comfort of others will come again.
Not that the 69-year-old will want it, particularly. He has never understood the fuss. That is the part of the charm and attraction with McDermott, a wonderfully-gifted footballer who has not lost one syllable of his unmistakable Scouse nor one ounce of his humility.
I have been fortunate enough to spend a couple of afternoons at his beautiful home in Northumberland. One of them started with the electric gates on his driveway becoming jammed.
McDermott (second left) still attends matches at Anfield as well as Newcastle’s St James’ Park
‘I need to get them sorted — I’m too old to be climbing over now!’ he said, with trademark wit, before playfully suggesting I was young enough to climb over.
That was in 2018 and we sat in his back garden ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League final against Real Madrid, recalling his part in their European Cup victory over the same opponents 37 years earlier.
‘You see this grass here,’ he said. ‘This was a different class to that pitch in Paris. They’d been playing bloody rugby on it the week before!’
Given the nature of the disease he is now fighting, there is poignancy in the piece we produced that day being McDermott’s memories of each of his Liverpool team-mates from their 1-0 win, a third European Cup success in five seasons. It was a laughter-filled trip down memory lane.
Among the highlights, he said of Graeme Souness: ‘He had style, he drank champagne while we were on lager. We were all trying to pull girls from the local supermarket and he walked in with Miss World, Mary Stavin. You couldn’t concentrate!’
And of Phil Thompson: ‘He was like me, brought up in Kirkby, and that’s a tough upbringing — even the Alsatians went around in pairs! We roomed together and I’d drive him crazy by eating boiled seafood, he hated the smell. “Please tell me you haven’t brought those again?” he’d say, and I’d tell him, “I f****** have, and I’m gonna enjoy them!”.’
McDermott lifted three European Cups with Liverpool during a golden age for the club
That is McDermott, great fun to be around. Those in his company in a private box at St James’ recently tell of him stealing the show with his ready humour.
It is that quality — coupled with loyalty — that meant he became the perfect foil to Kevin Keegan when they returned to manage Newcastle in 1992.
They had played together for Liverpool, Newcastle and England, and Keegan — never one to dispense with trust easily — wanted McDermott above anyone else by his side.
You saw why three years later when Keegan faced the wrath of supporters on the stadium steps after selling Andy Cole to rivals Manchester United. It was McDermott who stood with him.
‘When (directors) Douglas Hall and Freddie Shepherd saw the numbers, they stayed at the doors!’ McDermott told us last year. ‘Me and Kevin went out. They weren’t happy, but Kevin talked them around.
‘I always remember one fan then said, “He wouldn’t sell Cole without having a replacement lined up anyway”. I muttered behind Kevin, “Oh yes he f***ing would!”.’
Kevin Keegan valued his former team-mate as assistant and needed his loyalty at Newcastle
Even now that story brings a smile. It took them 18 months to sign Les Ferdinand and, in 1996, Newcastle came second to Manchester United.
McDermott has always said that, had they won at Liverpool instead of losing 4-3 in a game that ranks as the greatest in Premier League history, they would have lifted the title.
After that match he walked around the dressing room and told every single player, ‘You were brilliant, son’.
That team’s affection for him is apparent to this day. Listen to Ferdinand, John Beresford or Lee Clark, and they all have hilarious stories involving Terry Mac.
But McDermott, for all the jokes, was a serious footballer, the first to win both the PFA and FWA Player of the Year prizes in 1980.
A generation, including my own, only ever knew him as a coach. Our fathers were always quick to remind us, ‘Terry Mac was some player, I’m telling you’.
McDermott is determined to fight his next battle and won’t be left wanting for any support
One story I loved from that afternoon in his garden was of him moving to Newcastle as a 21-year-old.
‘When I first signed for Newcastle in 1973, I stayed at Alan Kennedy’s parents’ house and was supposed to be there for two weeks. I ended up staying 22 months!
‘At 12 o’clock on matchdays, his mother would make a full roast dinner. I’d finish that at 12.30pm and then she would offer me apple pie and custard. “Ah, go on then,” I’d say. But it never did me any harm!’
It most certainly did not. McDermott has lived a life full of silverware and laughter. His diagnosis brings home how cherished those memories really are.
SPORTSMAIL’S CAMPAIGN TO BATTLE DEMENTIA AND OUR SUCCESSES
The DCMS backed several demands put to football’s governing bodies by Sportsmail in our seven-point charter last November:
1 – Increased funding from the FA and PFA for independent research into dementia and its links to football.
- Achieved (FA put out a new call for more research this year) and backed by DCMS.
2 – The PFA to provide respite for families and carers of former professional footballers living with dementia.
- Achieved (Sportsmail has spoken to families of former footballers who are now receiving help from the players’ union).
3 – The PFA to appoint a dedicated ‘dementia team’ and work with, promote and financially assist Alzheimer’s Society’s Sport United Against Dementia campaign and Dementia Connect support line.
- Achieved (Dawn Astle and Rachel Walden agreed to work with the PFA on an initial six-month advisory basis).
4 – The PFA to help fund regular social events for people living with dementia and their carers.
- Achieved (the PFA Charity has partnered with the Sporting Memories Foundation).
5 – Dementia to be formally recognised as an industrial disease.
- Still campaigning, backed by DCMS.
6 – Football’s lawmakers, IFAB, to ratify temporary concussion replacements.
- Still campaigning.
7 – Clubs to limit heading at all levels. Maximum of 20 headers per session in training. Minimum 48 hours between sessions.
- Awaiting new rules for this season.
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