Stark contrast of the Tiernies
FOOTBALL is filled with tales of siblings with contrasting fortunes but few can be as pronounced as the story of the Tierney brothers, both of whom will be lacing up their boots for action this afternoon.
Marc, aged 27, will be flying down the flanks for Wanderers at a packed out City Ground, hoping to steer Dougie Freedman’s side to victory over promotion rivals Nottingham Forest.
Ten tiers below the Championship, Paul will be kicking-off the new Manchester League campaign with Prestwich Heys against Walshaw Sports Club in front of a couple of hundred fans at Grimshaw Park.
But it certainly hasn’t always been that way – and just a decade ago, while Marc was just making his way in senior football at Oldham Athletic, Paul made his debut for Manchester United in a League Cup defeat to West Brom, playing alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Darren Fletcher and John O’Shea.
He was at that point United’s reigning young player of the year and tipped to move into the Republic of Ireland set up after several caps at Under-21 level.
But after leaving Old Trafford in 2005, the full-back’s fall from grace was so startling that it even provided the inspiration for a song, ironically for a Scottish singer-songwriter also called Paul Tierney.
Spells at Crewe, Bradford, Livingston, Colchester, Blackpool, Stockport County and Altrincham all followed within four years before he decided to give up the professional game for good and start working with Salford Council.
While life has dealt different hands to the two Prestwich-based former St Monica’s High School pupils, Marc believes his brother is now enjoying football again after falling out of love with the game completely.
“I’d seen him go from living for football to completely the opposite,” said the defender, who arrived at the Reebok from Norwich in the summer. “I think he just needed to get out of the game completely.
“Sometimes if it isn’t giving back to you what you are putting in, maybe you are better off out of the limelight a bit.
“He even had a fella write a song about him – and that probably sums it up, to be honest.”
Still just 30 years old, Paul Tierney came through the United ranks at the same time as Chris Eagles, whose appearance against the Baggies was only his second in senior football.
And Marc – who worked his way through all four divisions before dropping down to the Championship with Wanderers – says his brother’s experience helps him appreciate exactly what he has got.
“It’s how football can go. You find managers who like you and you like them,” he said.
“Or sometimes – as he has found out – you clash with a couple of managers, and after that it’s the desire in you whether you want to keep going and live away from your family like I had to do. He chose not to do that and stayed local.
“But when you leave United you are dropping even if you go to one of the other big clubs. After Sir Alex Ferguson who are you working for?
“Some of the stories he’s told me about managers it’s no wonder he packed it in. “He’s been told ‘don’t go past the halfway line, don’t go in for 50-50 tackles’ and when you have come from a pure footballing background like United and working with better players, it’s hard to adjust.
“I had it with Michael Clegg at Oldham. He explained how he had gone from drilling balls into Eric Cantona and no matter where the ball went, it would stick to having to put a ball in with a little bow on it!
“It’s that kind of difference whereas I have gone the other way always playing with better players, which is easy. They can always help you a lot more than you can help them.
“But I think Paul still has a lot to offer the game. If he got himself fit he’d be a right player again.
“However, you do see how quickly it can go from everything being rosy to not. It keeps you normal.”
Tierney is under no illusion as to the size of the task at Forest today after hearing from his team-mates about the battering they took at the City Ground in Billy Davies’s first game back at the club last season.
Wanderers scraped a 1-1 draw that day – and the defender believes Forest are a stronger prospect this time around.
“They have spent a few quid and are still looking for players now,” he said. “They always seem to do well at home. The lads told me they were very strong there last year so a few have remembered that. This year they seem a lot more organised going into games. “We meticulously go over their strengths and how we can nullify them but also we can impose ourselves on other teams. We want to get our ball players on the ball hurting them rather than worry too much how they can hurt us.”