Pascal Chimbonda and 24 Other Classic Premier League Players: No. 19 – Gavin McCann

13 August 2018 04:56

Born: 10 January 1978, Blackpool, England

Age: 40

Age in 2005: 24

Premier League Clubs: ​Everton (1995-98), Sunderland (1998-2003), ​Aston Villa (2003-07), Bolton Wanderers (2007-11)

Position: Central midfielder

When Gavin Peter McCann first pulled on the Lytham St Annes YMCA Juniors shirt as a young whipper snapper, he could only have dreamt that he would one day be receiving praise from the likes of ​Gary Megson. Yet just a few years later, McCann was fully conscious when the Bolton manager's lips formed the sweet words "Gavin's doing well" after a string of passable performances for the Lancashire club. Things had never been better. 

Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur

(Above: Gavs takes a long hard look at the object he was meant to be tackling) 

His journey to this euphoric moment, however, was not quite as plain sailing as the Englishman would perhaps have anticipated. Life in professional football began in the 1990s - the last hurrah of the 20th century - where attention was directed more towards the fall of communism worldwide than the debut of a twenty-something for Everton. But Gavs didn't let Gorbachev, Oasis or the launch of the internet put him off. He'd worked hard at the ​Liverpool-based club's academy and was rewarded with his full professional contract in 1995, under manager Joe Royle. 

Yet if Royle was expecting life-long commitment from the man who incidentally shared his name with a brand of oven chips, then he was well wide of the mark. 11 appearances in three years had failed to convince the midfielder of his worth to the squad, and he eventually signed for Division One side Sunderland  in 1998. The decision to let him go so easily, however, was presumably one that the Toffees would come to view as one of their biggest mistakes when McCann landed himself the status of cult hero in the The Roker Report Cult Hero Hall of Fame some years later.

Gavin McCann of Sunderland in action

(Above: It was moments like these when Everton felt very silly for letting McCann slip through the net)

However, cult hero or not, ​Sunderland knew that they would be unable to tie down the young maverick for more than 116 appearances. 

Relegation triggered mass exodus from the Wearside club, as 'The Chip' led the way with a move to Aston Villa. Following his departure, the board showed their gratitude to his five years of service, stating, "We would have liked £4m [for Gavin], but our financial position means we have had to settle for £2.5 million." 

Little did Gavin know, he was to be the marquee signing of an ambitious plan to rebuild the West Midlands side. Disappointment derived from failures to attract the talents of Brett Emerton and Paul Robinson quickly dissipated, as Villa fans gleefully watched Gavs do everything from slamming home consolation goals in 3-1 losses to wrestling players to the ground and getting sent off. 

Bolton Wanderers' Gavin McCann (bottom)

(Above: 'The McCannic' taking out Chelsea's Florent Malouda with the ball absolutely nowhere to be seen)

His performances - which included the slapping of defender Emerson Thome - didn't go unnoticed, as Sammy Lee and, more importantly, Gary 'Ballyhoo' Megson liked what they saw from the midfield maestro. So much so that they snapped up the 29-year old in 2007 in what became the ​biggest fuss over a £1m transfer in footballing history, as the Bolton hierarchy fought tooth and limb for Gavin and his England cap.

When he did finally arrive at the Reebok Stadium it appeared to be a call from heaven, as French striker Nicolas Anelka had just departed, leaving a gaping hole to fill in the goal department. Four seasons and a goal later, McCann called time on his career following a 16-month spell on the sidelines as well as some time out for injury. He very fashionably retired at the age of 33 in a tweet sent by ​Bolton captain Kevin Davies, having made a total of 312 appearances and scoring 12 goals. 

Where is he now?

Bringing us all hurtling back down to Earth with the news that he was in fact ​not a star England international for all those years. 

What did he say?

"I don't feel I could call myself an England player"

Source: 90min