Mark Patterson achieved his boyhood dream of playing for Rovers and has had the chance to relive that, and his 16-year playing career, in the release of his new book ‘Old School’. Rich Sharpe caught up with the ex-Rovers favourite.


A job, but the best one in the world, says Mark Patterson of his career as a footballer. So while cutting ties with Rovers, the club he has supported all his life and had the honour of representing over 100 times, wasn’t nice, he says all emotion goes out of the situation.

Things came to a head in the summer of 1988 when his contract was up for renewal, his wife was expecting their first child and Don Mackay was looking to rebuild after defeat in the play-offs to Chelsea.

A little over a year earlier Patterson was part of the Rovers side who won the Full Members Cup against Charlton Athletic at Wembley, but his footballing tour of the north west would soon begin as Preston North End became his new home.

“From being 11 or 12 at the club it was my boyhood dream, I love the club, and when you play for the club and the shirt it’s an amazing thing,” he said of his time with Rovers.

“Then, no matter what you say, it becomes a job, the best job in the world, and you have to look after yourself.

“The way Mackay pushed me out of the door did me a favour in many ways but the way he went about it was very poor.

“My wife was expecting our first child, I went into his office to see him and he offered me £10 a week rise, that meant he didn’t want me.

“If he’d have had anything about him he’d have said ‘listen Paddy, your time here is done, you can go and get a fresh start’ and that would have been the right thing to say.

“When I told him that my wife was expecting our first child and I needed a bit more (money) than that he turned around and said: ‘I didn’t get your wife pregnant did I?’ And I thought ‘what kind of thing is that to say to a player’.

“So I had no respect for him after saying that, but he did me a favour and then I went to North End.”

From North End he moved to Bury and then to Bolton in January 1991 where Patterson says he played the best football of his career under Bruce Rioch as Wanderers went on to mix with the elite of the Premier League.

His career then took him to Sheffield United before two separate spells with Southend and another with Bury, as well as Blackpool, not hanging up his boots up before making a total of 500 league appearances.

The book details his career, with something for fans of each of those clubs, or football in general.

Titled ‘Old School’, a career which spanned the 1980s and 1990s also took in some ‘new school’ aspects too, learning about dieting and carbohydrates, and even training twice a day.

“It’s been a bit of a journey, it’s taken us a few years, myself and Kev O’Hara who co-wrote it with me, it’s nice for it to be out there at last. There’s a few stories in there and some great memories from the clubs that I’ve been at,” Patterson said of the release.

“There’s two ways of looking at it, the comical answer is that when I’m in an old people’s home and I can’t remember who I am, someone can shove a book in front of me and say ‘that’s you’.

“Then there’s a chance to put it down on paper because it’s nice to occasionally look back and something to remind you of what you’ve done in your life because we can easily forget.

“It’s a really humorous read and some good football stories in there from the clubs I’ve been at.”

Plenty changed throughout the course of Patterson’s career, as detailed in the book.

“We looked at it from the aspect of the changes from the late 80s to early 90s, the tackles that you used to be able to do, the banter that used to take place, the fighting that used to go on down the tunnel, and the stuff you got away with before the cameras came on you. You used to get away with murder,” he said.

“The grounds as well, how much they have changed, it’s all in there regarding these things, it brings you right up to date from playing at Old Trafford for the first time as a kid to playing there after they built the new stand in the Premier League and Anfield as well.

“Then there’s the apprentices and young professionals and what they don’t have to do now in comparison to what we had to do. In our days we had to clean the stands, clean the balls, it grounded you. I think that’s a great thing.

“Nowadays these kids are managed better, and they have to be because of the money they’ve got, but are they grounded, have they got the same principles as we were?”

The early days at Rovers included being picked up from school to feature in a first-team friendly aged 15 before his debut as a 17-year-old against Manchester City.

Yet it wasn’t always plain sailing, one of their own even coming in for criticism from the stands.

“It can be difficult, you’re always in the spotlight of the supporters,” he said.

“I used to go out in Darwen and Blackburn for a few drinks and you didn’t just get judged at 5pm on a Saturday, you got judged at 11pm on Saturday night as well.

“I walked in pubs many a time in Blackburn and been the butt of many jokes and sarcasm, but I always had a good lads around me and there was never any bother because they used to look after me.

“It was difficult at times, particularly at the end when the Riverside started to get on my back, and I got the boo boys on my back a bit.

“Don Mackay did me a favour a little bit in not giving me a contract, it got me out there to Preston and McGrath gave me a new lease of life at North End.”

When the times were good however, there was nothing like it.

“There were some amazing times. The Full Members Cup, the good games like my hat-trick against Sheffield United at Ewood, coming home after the Full Members and having the civic reception, going back to The Anchor in Darwen and in my club blazer they carried me from the door to the bar,” he described.

“Under the scoreboard at Wembley, we were doing our lap of honour, and seeing ‘The Blackburn Rovers Anchor boys flag’ was amazing. Great memories.”

The book also details some tough times off the field, including divorce and bankruptcy.

He says memories of his career haven’t changed in the writing on the book, but on reflection he said: “The only thing I wish I would have managed better was the money side of things.

“When I got a taste of the Premiership and Bolton were doing well the money started to come in.

“We enjoyed it so much but you just don’t know what’s happening in the future.

“The only thing I would change is to have managed my money better then I wouldn’t have had to be working as hard as I am now.

“I don’t mind working hard now because I’m a realist, that’s life, but that’s the only thing.

“If I looked after myself more, had an agent maybe, someone to look after me, who knows, but we don’t look back, we look forward and always stay positive.”

There required a take two with the interview, Patterson wanting 10 extra minutes before chatting all about his career, and of course his new book.

‘I’m just in the process of putting up a fence post,” he said, a glimpse into his day job of running Mark Patterson Landscapes.

“The business has been going for a while now, landscaping and building, working most parts of Lancashire and been doing it full time for 11 years, on and off for 20 years,” he explained. “I was doing it part-time when I played for Bolton, I used to jump on that in the afternoons.

“We have a good business going, myself and my son, and a couple of lads who work for us occasionally and we work all over Blackburn, Darwen, Bolton, Preston, Accrington and it’s a good little business.

“So anyone who wants some quality landscaping doing, give us a call!”