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Don't remember Paul Tierney? His ballad is about to get stuck in your head

The former Ireland U21 defender never made the grade at Old Trafford, but his story is now the subject of an lo-fi indie hit.

Tierney playing for the Ireland U21s.
Tierney playing for the Ireland U21s.
Image: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

IF WE WERE to tell you that the Jimmy Murphy Player of the Year award, Manchester United’s prestigious accolade for young players was won by an Irish defender in 2002, most of you would assume John O’Shea walked off with the award.

Actually, it was a left-back called Paul Tierney, a Salford-born Republic of Ireland Under 21 defender, who’s route to first team action O’Shea would ultimately block.

Once earmarked as the natural successor to Ian Harte for Ireland, Tierney tumbled down the leagues before his retirement in 2009. Now, his story has become the inspiration for a song by Scottish acoustic troubadour Lonely Tourist.

‘The Ballad of Paul Tierney’ details the defenders football story, from playing for his school team to being scouted by United.

You’re the best player this school has had son

You’re the only talent in that dressing room

If it was up to me, you’d stay here and teach with me

But the scouts are crying out, for a left back with your pace and clout.

Within six months, it’s Man United,

Through the ranks where George Best started

Young Player of the year, a glittering career

Seemed as predictable as rain….”

It also details that night at the Hawthorns in 2003, when Tierney made his debut to forget.

His big break comes on Wednesday night

20 minutes against a team in a relegation fight

But it’s Paul who gets the blame

For the goal which cost the game

And another cup upset

Costs more than just some coupon bets”

Tierney challenging West Brom’s Scott Dobie on that night in question. Credit: Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport

But why has Tierney, brother of Norwich City’s Marc, inspired this musical tribute?

Well, Lonely Tourist is a Glaswegian singer/songwriter who off stage goes by the name of, Paul Tierney. Whether or not he’s a Manchester United supporter remains to be seen.

Tierney, the one who played football, made one appearance for United, starting in a League Cup defeat to West Brom in 2003, after spending a spell on loan at Crewe Alexandra and before being sent out for short stints at Colchester United and Bradford City.

It was during this spell that the versatile left footer earned seven caps for Don Given’s U21 side and he was considered a big prospect for the future, even featuring in The Irish Times’ ‘People to Watch in 2003’ list.

Despite being named in Sir Alex Ferguson’s expanded Champions League squads, permanent spells at Livingstone, Blackpool and Altrincham followed, as well as a loan spell at Stockport County before Tierney called time on his professional football career. Now 30, he’s currently preparing for pre-season with Prestwich Heys FC in the Manchester Football League.


YouTube credit: TouristInfoRecords

Lonely Tourist’s track, ‘The Ballad of Paul Tierney’ has received airplay on BBC 6 Music this week and is available to buy via Bandcamp.

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