‘The Smell of Football’

Most Everton fans will know Mick ´Baz´ Rathbone as the former Blues Physio and will remember the sight of his trademark bald head and loping gait as he ran out to treat Big Dunc or Louis Saha…

… but he is also now the author of the acclaimed new book, The Smell of Football.

He is almost unique in the game of professional football in that he has been a player, manager and physio and The Smell of Football is about Baz´s 35 years spent at football´s coalface.

As you´d expect, the book is full of great stories about his time at Goodison and any Blue will find it enjoyable for that reason alone… but there´s plenty more to Baz´s story than the last 10 years and the ups and downs of his career are in turn thought provoking and very funny!

Grand Old Team are pleased to bring you an exclusive extract from the book. In it Baz talks about some of the pressures that come with being a Premier League Physio and working with the likes of Duncan Ferguson, Tim Cahill and the Yak!


I got my first taste of the realities of my new role at Everton after just one week. Big Dunc had been out for several months with a muscle problem. When I arrived at the club and reviewed the case – with the benefit of knowing that all usual pathologies had been looked at and ruled out – I felt that the problem was possibly not with the muscle itself, but with the nerve running under it. That would explain why the injury was refusing to get better.

I managed to find one of the very few surgeons in the 
region who´d had any experience with this admittedly very rare condition, and we all met for a consultation in a private Manchester hospital with a view to the surgical release of this vexed nerve. The surgeon went through the procedure in fine detail but, in his frankness, painted rather a negative picture, explaining that if the operation was not a success, then Dunc´s career would probably be over.

Naturally, this made us both feel a bit unsure, so the surgeon told us to discuss it while he went to scrub up and, if we wanted to go ahead, then we should inform the sister who would get one of the porters to take Dunc to the operating theatre. The surgeon left the room and, before I could say a word, Dunc said, “Right, it´s up to you. You decide. I will go with what you say.”

Wow, that was pressure. The penny dropped: I wasn´t getting the big wages for running around the training ground or kicking balls to the players; no, it was to make these crucial, big decisions on the management of the injuries of Everton´s multi-million pound assets.

I told Dunc I would go downstairs to clear my head and make the decision. I went outside and had a walk around the car park. I went through the whole thing again: right, he can´t play with this injury, it´s not getting better and it´s not likely to get better with time, so medically it´s an absolute no-brainer. The problem was I had only been at the club for a week and wasn´t too keen on fucking up Everton´s star player after such a brief time in the job.

Fortunately Trevor, Sir Alf, the Blues players, the Blues fans, the ´four´ in the Sunday People, the Thwaites Bitter, the meat pies, the tribunal, the plastic burns, the coming out of the game with nothing in the bank, the going back to school at 32, the relegation and the crippling workload had all conspired to produce the world´s most mentally resilient person. I bounded up the stairs and informed Dunc the operation would go ahead.

I watched the surgery. It was a great success. He was cured and, after that did not miss another game through injury for three years. (Sadly, he missed dozens through club and FA suspensions and altercations with local burglars.)

The Smell of Football is out now and is published by Vision Sports Publishing. It´s available from all good book sellers and you can see Baz tell some stories from the book on his facebook page – just search for The Smell of Football. You can also find Baz on twitter at @mickrathbone

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