Pat McGinlay: ‘Managers feared my lovely wife and so did I when she shouted at me from the stand’

The last time Hibernian and Motherwell clashed in the Scottish Cup, Pat McGinlay had just completed an emergency course in self-psychoanalysis. This is best explained in the Scottish vernacular: “I needed to have a wee quiet word with myself,” he laughs.

Pat McGinlay and his wife Margaret. The pair now run a cleaning business, Spic and Span. Picture: John Devlin

The rampaging midfielder who loved to hunt goals had returned to Easter Road after 15 months at Celtic and readjustment was proving tricky. “Not to put too fine a point on it, I was being an arse. I thought I was big-time because of where I’d been. I thought I could cruise back at Hibs but those first few months I was rotten.”

McGinlay was re-signed in November 1994 and by the time that cup-tie came round the following February he was scoring every week. He netted again against ’Well and Hibs would reach the semi-finals that season, a feat the current side hope to emulate today. McGinlay’s men would lose to his former employers after a replay, although there was a consolation prize in beating Celtic to third place in the league, something within the grasp of his successors in green and white.

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But regarding this player, a hero from 1991 when Hibs survived a near-death experience to hoist the League Cup, comparisons between football then and now maybe don’t extend much further. McGinlay’s game was forward motion and not sideways passing, the a-la-mode way to play for many these days. Like others of his generation he’s baffled by the splurge of stats denoting successful delivery of the ball to a team-mate. “What do they mean if it’s being popped about at the back under no threat?” he wonders. No, we simply don’t see enough bust-a-gut charges from the midfield which were McGinlay’s speciality, baggy shirt billowing - and, if the desired outcome had been achieved, a scary toothless grin of celebration.

From Callum Milne to Franck Sauzee

As opposing defences from the end of the last century will testify, it takes a while to pin him down. “Can’t do today - I’ve got holy communion,” is the 53-year-old’s first response. Then he’s golfing - with a priest - but having to use a buggy after coming a cropper while coaching his grandson Liam’s team. The old legs let you down, Pat? “Naw, my fat backside!” Finally we catch up when he’s on the road with Spic & Span, the cleaning firm he runs with his wife Margaret.

McGinlay found the back of the net 79 times for the Hibees in a two-act drama which began alongside Callum Milne and ended in a whole different galaxy next to Franck Sauzee. In his one full season at Celtic - the intermission - he finished top scorer, out-hitting even Charlie Nicholas. Margaret witnessed every one of his strikes, a colourful character in her own right, glamorous and conspicuous in her encouragement for her man from the stand, which means she must have witnessed those sulks when he pitched up once more in Leith.

“She never missed one of my games, so aye. I think especially at Easter Road the rest of the crowd got to know her voice. Maybe there would be a quiet moment, with me not doing very much in the game, probably thinking about what I was going to have for my dinner or something, and Maggie would shout ‘Come on, Patrick.’ Everyone around her burst out laughing, which was a bit embarrassing. I’d panic and start running about daft.”

Pat McGinlay in typically rumbustious form for Hibs against Dundee in 2000.

McGinlay is a shipyard plater’s son from Glasgow’s Partick. “Make it the West End, that’s what everyone says now,” he quips. As a boy, Celtic daft, he’d dash between two local pubs, the Smiddy and the Dolphin, hoping for a seat on a supporters’ bus and then a lift-over to cheer on Tommy Burns, his future manager at Parkhead, and George McCluskey, a future team-mate at Hibs.

I married my landlady

His first club aged 17, though, were Blackpool, then toiling in England's third tier. “They were so hard up that a Scots guy who ran a big laundrette locally paid the wages of me and another young lad from home, Graham Hay, and we were in digs together.” Nice landlady? “Very - and 30 years ago I ended up marrying her! Obviously, as a West End boy myself, I wasn’t used to Maryhill birds and how forward they were. No, I’m kidding. Maggie was lovely, just stunning - and I’d say this even if she wasn’t sitting right next to me just now, she still is.”

McGinlay managed only one first-team game for the Seasiders but in 1987 Peter Cormack, then Hibs’ assistant manager, saw him in a reserve match and recommended the brawny kid to the Easter Road boss, Alex Miller. He admits: “I didn’t know what to expect [at Hibs]. That was ignorance or stupidity on my part. Footballers are always moving around and they’re not the brightest folk in the world, are they? But it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the place.”

Pat McGinlay playing for Celtic against Hibs' Gordon Hunter.

McGinlay’s debut was an Edinburgh derby, a fixture in which he didn’t experience much joy. “That was mostly Robbo’s [John Robertson’s] doing. I love him to bits but how many winners did he score with a deflection off his dumpy wee backside? In my memory it seems like loads. Him and Garry Mackay were always dishing out abuse, stuff you’ll not be able to print. All part of the fun, of course.” There was one capital clash where he set a dubious record - a booking within ten seconds of the start. “I vaguely remember that - hopefully it was for kicking that bugger Mackay.” (Stevie Fulton, actually). Among McGinlay’s few victories over Hearts it would take him until his final season at Hibs to savour a special one - the 3-0 Millennium derby victory at Tynecastle. “Franck [Sauzee] scored a terrific goal and Kenny Miller, who used to clean my boots, got the third.”

League Cup glory at Hibs

The best team performance of either spell at Easter Road was en route to Skol Cup glory, the semi-final win over a star-studded Rangers when he and Mickey Weir set up Keith Wright’s winner. I mention an English newspaper’s report of the game which talked of manager Miller having fashioned a “midfield masterclass”. “We had a nice blend in there: Mickey with his tanner ba’ stuff, Murdo [MacLeod] with his wise heid and Brian [Hamilton] who was the great unsung member of the team doing so much dogged ball-winning for the likes of me.

“I know that to the outside world Alex was dour but for us he was a very clever manager. He gets called defensive but we always had great attackers: Steve Archibald in my first spell then Keith, Mickey, Darren [Jackson] and Michael [O’Neill]. He had to be an astute coach to end up at Liverpool. And on Fridays at Easter Road he always knew the exact moment to stop the Edinburgh vs Glasgow five-a-sides so one of us didn’t get hurt.”

Pat McGinlay acclaiming a Hibs goal at Ayr United in 1999.

McGinlay reflects some more on his era compared with the current scene: “You don’t see so many players laughing and having a joke now. I hope they’re enjoy themselves because being able to play football for a living is a tremendous privilege. I’ve had this cleaning business for 18 years. When you stop playing it can be f*****’ tough. Mind you, I had an advantage: I played with Chic Charnley. Alongside him you couldn’t not laugh.”

Something else McGinlay thinks has vanished: the death-stare from the gnarled veteran. “You didn’t want to disappoint Franck with a slack pass or Mixu [Paatelainen] - and certainly not big Yogi [John Hughes]. I was terrified of him. Remember how he liked to dribble out from the back? One time when it went wrong I shouted: ‘F****n’ hell, Franz Beckenbauer, do you want to stop giving goals away?’ He chased me for a full five minutes.”

I’d send in Margaret to negotiate with Alex Miller

After that vanquishing of Rangers in ’91, lifting a trophy was sweet indeed for a club threatened with extinction when Wallace Mercer attempted to buy Hearts’ rivals the year before. McGinlay says: “I was never one of those players to get involved in politics but you couldn’t blot out something like that. We all bought bricks to try and save Hibs and the Proclaimers were brilliant, as was Tom Farmer of course.

“I remember Alex saying as we boarded the open-top bus: ‘Take this in.’ As a young, naive footballer right after a cup win you’re thinking about the champagne, you’re thinking about your bonus. Then I saw the crowds there to greet us. Ohmigod … ”

It’s time again for McGinlay to praise the missus: “Maggie’s been an absolute godsend, looking after me for all these years, and I wouldn’t have had the career I did without her. It must be tough for wives sometimes having to put up with daft footballers but she was always so supportive of me. If I’d been offered a year [of contract extension] she’d go: ‘You’re worth more. Let’s get two or three.’ I think Alex Miller was scared of her. He used to say she was tougher than any of the official agents who sat in his office.

Pat McGinley in Ayr United colours. He helped them reach the League Cup final - at Hibs' expense.

“She was tough with me too after games. She couldn’t kick her arse but on Saturday nights when I was trying to eat my Chinese she would get me out in the garden to go over things I’d done wrong: ‘Why didn’t you pass to Mickey that time? Why didn’t you shout at Keith more to give you the ball?’”

Playing under Brady, Macari and Burns at Celtic

McGinlay - dad to Emma and Megan and grandad to Patrick, Ciaran and Joseph as well as Liam - moved to Celtic in the summer of 1993 for £525,000, a tribunal-decreed fee almost double what the club wanted to pay and requiring them to move on others. Did the size of it daunt him? “Not really. Guys like George McCluskey and Graham Mitchell told me not to think about the price: ‘You know you’re a good player.’ My first game was coming on in a pre-season friendly against Sheffield Wednesday. My first touch was a shot from 30 yards, just over the bar The crowd went ‘Woah!’ and I thought: ‘I’m having some of this.’ Celtic weren’t scoring many goals back then and I thought I could help.”

But, as at Easter Road, they were a club in turmoil and eventually, through Fergus McCann, regime change. Managers came and went. First Liam Brady then Lou Macari who, back up from England for his Old Firm game for a while, was asked afterwards for his view. “Uncomplicated players just running about, fighting,” he said. McGinlay laughs when I read this back - “That was bang-on” - but he loved the mayhem of the Glasgow derby, with occasionally Celtic fans being locked out of Ibrox, some of them taking to the air to fly a “Hail, hail!” banner. Macari, though, didn’t last long either and was replaced by Tommy Burns who didn’t really warm to the lad who used to idolise him from the terraces.

Says McGinlay: “I was disappointed but not bitter. New managers will want their own players and in football you have to grab the good times and accept the bad. Then Alex Miller said: ‘I’ve come to take you home … ’

“That’s what Easter Road was when I first went there as a teenager and it was lovely to go back there for the 25th anniversary of the Skol Cup when guys like Darren McGregor, who must have been a nipper at the time, greet you as a legend.”

Wearing a Hibs casuals T-shirt under his Ayr shirt

To his first six years as a Hibee, McGinlay added six more. Miller moved on and was replaced by Jim Duffy who arrived by helicopter and took the club on a rollercoaster, from relegation playoffs to top of the league to the drop. McGinlay remembers the good times of that mad spell, the laughs with Charney and Jimmy Boco, and maybe his greatest goal, a strike from the halfway line against Kilmarnock.

David Beckham and Wayne Rooney had to put a lot of backswing into their famous efforts from the same distance but our man seemed to go with just a chip. “That was because I was shooting down the old Easter Road slope,” he laughs. “I out-Charnleyed Chic with that goal. He’d scored one from halfway against Alloa a few weeks before and Jim Duffy, his best mate, who Maggie knows from Maryhill, wouldn’t stop going on about it. We had great banter in that side, everyone trying to outdo each other. I ran to our bench to celebrate and accidentally head-butted Jim. Given where he’s from you don’t really want to do that. What a black eye he had!”

In helping Hibs return to the top flight McGinlay enjoyed close-up views of the exotic skills of Russell Latapy (“The best I played with”) and Sauzee (“Franck was magic. When he found out I was taking Maggie to Paris for our wedding anniversary, he organised a brilliant itinerary”). He then moved on to Ayr United for a last hurrah, helping the Honest Men giant-kill their way to the 2002 League Cup final, although those ties to Easter Road were hard to break.

“When we beat my old club in the semi I was wearing a Hibs Casuals t-shirt under my strip. I had to. Callum Milne told me I’d get battered if I didn’t!”

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