Mick Rathbone

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Mick Rathbone
Personal information
Full name Michael John Rathbone
Date of birth (1958-11-06) 6 November 1958 (age 58)
Place of birth Birmingham, England
Height 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)[1]
Playing position Full back
Youth career
Aston Villa
1974–1976 Birmingham City
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1976–1979 Birmingham City 20 (0)
1979 Blackburn Rovers (loan) 15 (0)
1979–1987 Blackburn Rovers 258 (2)
1987–1991 Preston North End 91 (4)
1993–1995 Halifax Town 8 (1)
Total 392 (6)
Teams managed
1992–1993 Halifax Town (caretaker manager)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

Michael John Rathbone (born 6 November 1958) is an English former professional footballer who was recently head of Wigan Athletic's medical team.

He played 384 games in the Football League representing Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers and Preston North End.[2] He played as a full back. After injury forced his retirement as a player he studied physiotherapy, and worked in that field for Halifax Town, Preston North End, and, from 2002 to 2010, Everton, where he became head of sports medicine. His son, Oliver, also became a professional footballer.

Playing career[edit]

Birmingham City[edit]

Rathbone was born in Sheldon, Birmingham, and attended Sir Wilfrid Martineau School.[3] His parents were both factory workers.[4] He had ambitions to become a doctor, but decided instead to pursue a career in football when Birmingham City, the club he supported, offered him an apprenticeship in December 1974;[5] as a schoolboy Rathbone had been associated with local rivals Aston Villa. He was capped twice at youth level by England. The 17-year-old Rathbone made his first-team debut on 31 August 1976 in a League Cup defeat to Blackpool at Bloomfield Road, and had a poor game as he later admitted that "I was at fault for both goals" and "had absolutely no confidence at all" due to what he deemed to be an intimidating atmosphere in the Birmingham City dressing room.[6] He was so low on confidence that he tried to avoid manager Willie Bell so as to avoid training with or playing for the first team.[7] He also recalled how he was never able to effectively pass the ball, either in training or in matches, to star forward Trevor Francis due to the nerves he felt in the presence of his childhood hero.[8] However, he made his league debut on 20 October, as a substitute replacing Archie Styles in a 1–0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.[9]

He turned professional in November 1976,[3] and played 16 games in the First Division over the course of the 1976–77 season, but his form dipped and he appeared only rarely over the next 18 months.[10][11] He was dropped by new manager Alf Ramsey and – at the insistence of his teammates – demanded a transfer; Ramsey told him "You can go by all means, but who's going to sign you? You are fucking crap!"[12] He remained at Birmingham throughout Ramsey's reign, however his confidence remained very low.[13] In March 1979, centre-half Joe Gallagher berated the club's young players in the dressing room, and Rathbone responded by informing manager Jim Smith that he intended to quit the game; Smith placated Rathbone by offering him a short break and a three-month loan spell at Blackburn Rovers to restore his confidence.[13]

"God, that walk [onto the pitch]. It was torturous, agonisingly slow, especially when your legs had turned to jelly. I remember studying Charles I in history at school, how he lost the throne and finally ended up getting beheaded. Apparently he refused a blindfold and insisted on walking to the scaffold unaided. I wondered how in such dire circumstances you could still walk and, as I edged my way down that dark tunnel, I realised how he must have felt. It was all right for Charles, though, he only had to go thorough the ordeal once; I had to do it every bloody Saturday.

— Rathbone did not enjoy his time as a first team player at St Andrew's, though later admitted that he had been too sensitive at the time.[13][14]

Blackburn Rovers[edit]

Rathbone joined Blackburn Rovers on a three-month loan in March 1979.[13] Veteran midfielder Alan Birchenall immediately gave him nickname "Baz", in reference to the late actor Basil Rathbone.[15] Having been struggling near the foot of the table at the Second Division time of his arrival, Blackburn were relegated to the Third Division at the end of the 1978–79 season.[16] He enjoyed his time at Ewood Park however, and was instrumental in the loan being made permanent as he begged Jim Smith to sanction a transfer, which Smith did after accepting Rovers manager John Pickering's offer of £40,000.[17] Rathbone signed a three-year contract and received a £2,000 signing-on fee.[17] However his lack of confidence was then replaced with a lack of discipline, as he admitted that he and teammate Russell Coughlin "slow and surely ... drank and ate ourselves out of the game".[18] New manager Howard Kendall gave him a three-month suspension in punishment for Rathbone's declining physical condition.[19] During his suspension he met his future wife, who helped him to take a more professional approach to his drinking and eating habits.[19]

Following the departure of Pickering, Rathbone was an infrequent member of the starting eleven, but under Bobby Saxton, appointed in 1981, by which time Blackburn had returned to the second tier, he became the regular first choice at left back.[11][20] He suffered a broken leg in 1983, and a hamstring injury deprived him of an appearance at Wembley Stadium in the final of the Full Members Cup in 1987.[11] In all, Rathbone spent eight seasons with Blackburn before Preston North End manager John McGrath paid a fee of £20,000 for his services in August 1987.[3]

Preston and Halifax[edit]

Rathbone's Preston career was disrupted by a succession of injuries, including a broken arm and a fractured cheekbone.[11] When a serious knee injury forced his retirement from playing in 1991,[21] he began a degree course in physiotherapy at the University of Salford.[22] McGrath, by then manager of Halifax Town, offered Rathbone the post of physiotherapist to the club, a role he could perform while continuing his formal study.[11] On 8 December 1992, following McGrath's resignation, Rathbone was placed in temporary charge.[23] The club's financial problems meant his caretaker role lasted until the end of the 1992–93 season, when they lost their Football League status.[24] While continuing as physiotherapist, Rathbone resumed his playing career on an emergency basis for Halifax in the Conference, though his fitness level was rather less than it once had been.[25][26] Towards the end of his time at Halifax, he added the assistant manager post to his collection, taking on what the Lancashire Evening Telegraph described as "the unique job description of assistant manager-player-physio", but in March 1995 he was sacked as a cost-cutting measure.[11][27]

Physiotherapy career[edit]

Rathbone then returned to Preston North End as physiotherapist.[11] He spent six years at the club, during which time they progressed from Division Three (the fourth tier of English football) to the play-off for a place in the Premier League, latterly as part of David Moyes' backroom staff.[5] When Moyes joined Everton as manager in March 2002, Rathbone followed a few months later after the clubs had agreed compensation.[28] He spent nearly eight years at the club, becoming head of sports medicine, a post he left in May 2010 after what the Liverpool Echo described as "a tumultuous season of injuries" to the Everton players.[29]

After leaving Everton, Rathbone went on to establish a business combining sports injury consultancy with motivational and after-dinner speaking.[30] In January 2011, he rejoined Preston North End on a part-time basis until the end of the 2010–11 season,[31] and also worked with the England under-17 team.[22] In November 2014, he was appointed as Head of Performance at Blackpool, overseeing medical and fitness aspects at the club.[32]

On 25 January 2017, it was announced that Rathbone would link up once again with his former Preston teammate Warren Joyce at Wigan Athletic to become the head of the club's medical team.[33]

Personal life[edit]

Rathbone is nicknamed 'Basil' or 'Baz', in reference to actor Basil Rathbone. His son Oliver was a member of the Manchester United academy before he joined Rochdale in 2016.[34][35] Rathbone's autobiography, The Smell of Football, was longlisted for the 2011 William Hill Sports Book of the Year.[36]


Club statistics[edit]

  • Sourced from Mick Rathbone profile at the English National Football Archive (subscription required)
Club Season Division League FA Cup Other Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Birmingham City 1976–77 First Division 16 0 2 0 1 0 19 0
1977–78 First Division 2 0 0 0 2 0 4 0
1978–79 First Division 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 0
Total 20 0 2 0 3 0 25 0
Blackburn Rovers 1978–79 Second Division 15 0 0 0 0 0 15 0
1979–80 Third Division 28 1 5 0 2 0 35 1
1980–81 Second Division 27 0 0 0 4 0 31 0
1981–82 Second Division 41 1 1 0 3 0 45 1
1982–83 Second Division 42 0 1 0 2 0 45 0
1983–84 Second Division 11 0 0 0 0 0 11 0
1984–85 Second Division 42 0 4 0 2 0 48 0
1985–86 Second Division 42 0 3 0 2 0 47 0
1986–87 Second Division 25 0 1 0 7 0 33 0
Total 273 2 15 0 22 0 310 2
Preston North End 1987–88 Third Division 36 1 2 0 6 0 44 1
1988–89 Third Division 34 2 2 0 7 0 43 2
1989–90 Third Division 8 0 0 0 4 0 12 0
1990–91 Third Division 13 1 1 0 3 0 17 1
Total 91 4 5 0 20 0 116 4
Career total 384 6 22 0 45 0 451 6

Managerial statistics[edit]

  • Sourced from Mick Rathbone profile at the English National Football Archive (subscription required)
Managerial record by team and tenure
Team From To Record
P W D L Win %
Halifax Town (caretaker) 8 December 1992 31 May 1993 25 4 5 16 16.0


with Blackburn Rovers




  1. ^ Rathbone 2011, p. 55
  2. ^ "Mike Rathbone". UK A–Z Transfers. Neil Brown. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Matthews, Tony (1995). Birmingham City: A Complete Record. Derby: Breedon Books. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-85983-010-9. 
  4. ^ Rathbone 2011, p. 19
  5. ^ a b "Mick 'Basil' Rathbone Exclusive". Preston North End F.C. 26 June 2008. Archived from the original on 3 October 2011. 
  6. ^ Rathbone 2011, p. 35
  7. ^ Rathbone 2011, p. 36
  8. ^ Rathbone 2011, p. 42
  9. ^ Matthews, p. 212.
  10. ^ Matthews, pp. 212–14.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g "Mick Rathbone Remembers". Lancashire Evening Telegraph. 21 April 2001. Retrieved 22 August 2015. 
  12. ^ Rathbone 2011, p. 47
  13. ^ a b c d Rathbone 2011, p. 60
  14. ^ Rathbone 2011, p. 46
  15. ^ Rathbone 2011, p. 64
  16. ^ Rathbone 2011, p. 66
  17. ^ a b Rathbone 2011, p. 67
  18. ^ Rathbone 2011, p. 69
  19. ^ a b Rathbone 2011, p. 72
  20. ^ "Blackburn Rovers". Football Club History Database. Richard Rundle. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  21. ^ "Mick's Healing Hands For PNE Players". Lancashire Evening Telegraph. 25 September 1997. Retrieved 22 August 2015. 
  22. ^ a b Veevers, Nicholas (9 May 2011). "Full circle for 'Baz'". The Football Association. Archived from the original on 2 May 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2011. 
  23. ^ Haylett, Trevor (9 December 1992). "Worthington's Halifax link". The Independent. Retrieved 24 March 2009. 
  24. ^ Drury, Peter (27 April 2001). "When competing at the bottom beats winning". The Independent. Archived from the original on 26 October 2012. Retrieved 24 March 2009. 
  25. ^ "A–Z". F.C. Halifax Town. 17 November 2004. Archived from the original on 5 October 2011. 
  26. ^ "Mick Rathbone". ShaymenOnline. Retrieved 24 March 2009. [dead link]
  27. ^ Metcalf, Rupert (10 March 1995). "Dispute over Roberts". The Independent. Retrieved 14 October 2010. 
  28. ^ "Moyes swoops on North End". Lancashire Evening Telegraph. 4 September 2002. Retrieved 22 August 2015. 
  29. ^ O'Keeffe, Greg (18 May 2010). "Everton FC physio Mick Rathbone leaves Goodison Park". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 22 August 2015. 
  30. ^ "Crossing the white line: '35 years in professional football'". Crossing The White Line. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. 
  31. ^ "Cort to stay at Deepdale until end of the season". Lancashire Evening Post. 26 January 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2015. 
  32. ^ Watt, William (21 November 2014). "Vastly experienced pair join Clark's staff". Blackpool Gazette. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  33. ^ Jones, Ed (25 January 2017). "Wigan Athletic announce staff changes". Wigan Athletic F.C. Retrieved 24 March 2017. 
  34. ^ "Oliver Rathbone: Rochdale sign ex-Manchester United midfielder". BBC Sport. 24 June 2016. Retrieved 21 October 2016. 
  35. ^ "Rathbone Transcript". Everton F.C. 18 July 2009. Archived from the original on 2 October 2012. 
  36. ^ "Longlist For William Hill Sports Book of Year Revealed" (Press release). William Hill. 30 September 2011. Archived from the original on 2 April 2012.