Grant McCann: From Belfast boy to Doncaster Rovers

Grant McCann
Grant McCann

Growing up in Belfast’s Sandy Row, Grant McCann by his own admission wanted to do three things - play for boyhood club Linfield; play for Northern Ireland and score for his country.

By the time he’d finished playing he’d done all three, even if he went about it in the opposite way that other young footballers do.

McCann by-passed the Irish League after impressing in a Lisburn Youth team that included fellow future international colleagues David Healy, Aaron Hughes and Gareth McAuley and headed to the bright lights of London and West Ham.

The young McCann - whose brother Ryan was also a footballer who started out at Rangers before carving out a decent career back home - struggled with homesickness and failed to follow in the footsteps of Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Rio Ferdinand in coming out of that youth team and progressing to even greater things.

It was not an overly-enjoyable experience for the player who could have quite easily fallen in the same way as many youngsters from across the Irish Sea do at big English clubs and ended up back home before ultimately drifting out of the game.

However, he was determined to make it as a footballer and Harry Redknapp saw enough in McCann to recommend him to then Cheltenham boss Steve Cotterill.

International recognition arrived and he would go on to make 39 international appearances for Northern Ireland, scoring four goals.

McCann’s career took off after the move to Cheltenham and he rose through the divisions to turn out for Barnsley, Scunthorpe United and Peterborough.

It was at London Road where he excelled - a hugely popular midfielder with a wand of a left foot and a would-be captain.

As he got older McCann began to take up part-time coaching roles with the youth teams, before fulfilling that final ambition of playing for Linfield, albeit for a short spell in 2015.

A coaching position at Posh beckoned and eventually he would replace Darren Ferguson as boss. And there began a new footballing chapter.