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Northern Ireland and Rangers veteran Gareth McAuley awarded MBE for services to football

Fri, Dec 28 2018

The Larne native, who counts Linfield, Crusaders, Coleraine, Lincoln City, Leicester City and Ipswich Town among his former clubs, joined the team he supported growing up in September. Credit: Macdara Ferris (ETPhotos)

Veteran Northern Ireland defender Gareth McAuley has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s honours list for 2019.

The Rangers centre-half will be presented with the awarded for his services to football in Northern Ireland.

39-year-old McAuley has 80 caps for his country, has captained the Green and White Army and played in all four games at Euro 2016 – the country’s first major finals in 30 years.

McAuley, who departed West Bromwich Albion in the summer following their relegation from the Premier League, has played in the top leagues in Northern Ireland, England and Scotland.

The Larne native, who counts Linfield, Crusaders, Coleraine, Lincoln City, Leicester City and Ipswich Town among his former clubs, joined the team he supported growing up in September.

He received his first international cap in a friendly against Germany in 2005 while at Lincoln and would go on to hold down a regular position for more than a decade.

Former goalkeeper Harry Gregg, who survived the Munich air disaster in 1958, was awarded an OBE, while England manager Gareth Southgate was also awarded an OBE.

“Larne in Northern Ireland is a long way from Ibrox Park, but that’s the thing about football,” McAuley said in a statement.

“You never know when you start out how or when it’s going to end or where you are going to visit along the way.

“The fact that I’ve received this amazing honour before my playing career has ended and that I am going to visit Buckingham Palace is something that I would never have anticipated during my early years in the game.

“I’ve done my best throughout my career to put something back into the community and I hope that the honour I’ve just been awarded inspires youngsters in Northern Ireland and encourages them always to believe that nothing is beyond them.

“Even having just turned 39, I always dreamed the best was ahead, and this indeed is the best.”

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard added: “I think it is certainly deserved for Gareth for the services he has given to football. Congratulations to him and his family, I am sure it will be a proud day.

“He is a top human being, he is a good man and he puts a lot into his job so he deserves to be rewarded.”

Gareth McAuley statement in full:

Larne in Northern Ireland is a long way from Ibrox Park, but that’s the thing about football.

You never know when you start out how or when it’s going to end or where you are going to visit along the way.

The fact that I’ve received this amazing honour before my playing career has ended and that I am going to visit Buckingham Palace is something that I would never have anticipated during my early years in the game.

Lisburn Youth, Linfield, Ballyclare Comrades, Crusaders, Coleraine; who knew that via Lincoln City, Leicester City, Ipswich Town and West Bromwich Albion I would arrive at the club I have supported since I was a kid.

My roots are in Northern Ireland and the fact that I’ve been able to represent my country 80 times and played in the European Championships is something of which I am so proud.

I’ve done my best throughout my career to put something back into the community and I hope that the honour I’ve just been awarded inspires youngsters in Northern Ireland and encourages them always to believe that nothing is beyond them.

Even having just turned 39, I always dreamed the best was ahead, and this indeed is the best.

There are so many people who have helped me along the way, helped me to continue to believe in myself both as a person and as a professional footballer.

I simply cannot name them all, but they know who they are and how much I owe to them.

And then there’s my family, and in particular my wife Fran and my children Bobby and Lexi who, along with all footballers’ families, put up with so much for the sake of their husbands and dads’ careers.

My parents Mildred and Billy always demonstrated belief in me and I fully intend to share this honour with them and all my family, friends, team-mates, managers, coaches and supporters who have made it possible and travelled with me this far down the road and for the rest of the journey.