Paul McGee: Former Wimbledon star on why the club remains special to him

Former Wimbledon star Paul McGee reflected fondly on his time at the Merton club and believes the team are set for a rise up the leagues.

The popular winger played for the club between 1989 to 1995 and still follows their progress from his hometown in Dublin.

And he is certain that patience will be rewarded for Dons fans.

“I talk fondly about Wimbledon whenever I am asked,” he said.

“Wimbledon will always be in my heart. I loved the club, loved the supporters and I loved the fact that we had a nightclub underneath one of the stands!

“It was a different set-up, there are no two ways about it. Other sides didn’t know what to make of us at all.”

The Dons are struggling at the wrong end of the table in League One this year.

But McGee has urged fans to be patient and feels the club could be set to embark on a similar journey to the original Crazy Gang and rise through the divisions.

“That has to be the goal, doesn’t it?” he said.  “When you look at the progress of the club in such a short period of time, then why not?

“What the club has already achieved since 2003 has been incredible, I’m not sure there is another story like it in football.

“I know Neal (Ardley) is going through a tough time this season.  But they look to have turned the corner recently and I think getting the go ahead for the new stadium has given everyone around the place a lift.”

McGee looked set to be one of the next Wimbledon stars destined for international success until a freak injury curtailed his career.

Coventry had had a bid of £2.5 million accepted for his services in 1992.

To put that in context, the British transfer record at the time was £2.9 million, when Dean Saunders had moved from Derby to Liverpool a few months earlier.

On the day he received confirmation of Coventry’s bid, he also received a call-up to Jack Charlton’s Ireland side.

But a seemingly innocuous collision with goalkeeper Neil Sullivan in training but the kybosh on any move or international appearance, and ultimately cost him his career.

“I was a winger who relied on pace and nip,” said McGee. “But the ankle wasn’t right after that.

“I don’t blame Neil at all. It was just one of those things. But I had developed a great understanding with Terry (Phelan) on the left side for Wimbledon.

“We could have carried that over to international level. Ireland didn’t really have an out-and-out left sided winger at that time. That injury cost me my Irish caps. I would have been with Terry Phelan in the Irish team for at least five or six years.”

This prospect haunted him for years after his eventual retirement from the game in 1999, and he admits the transition to Civvy Street was a tough one.

“I battled depression for years afterwards,” said McGee.  “It was particularly bad in 2010. I just wasn’t right at all.”

But football ultimately proved his salvation. He is now involved in the Irish Masters team; a collection of former Irish players who play friendly fixtures against their European counterparts and raise money for charity.

He also gives talks to 15-18-year-old transition students in Ireland about men’s mental health and his professional career.

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