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I was drinking with a Belfast man,
in an upper West-Side bar,
when he told me coming to the States,
was a one time football star.
He said his name was Paddy Joe,
and his age was 28,
and to make it as a professional,
it was obviously too late.
He could have signed for Celtic,
where he’d have played Europe and won doubles,
but unfortunately for Paddy Joe,
he got caught up in the Troubles.
He’d watched his cousin get gunned down,
and in a coffin laid,
and instead of joining Celtic,
he joined an I.R.A. Brigade.
He was wanted too by Liverpool,
by Villa and West Brom,
but at the age of sixteen years,
he was caught carrying a bomb.
He served twelve years in Long Kesh,
before being granted his release,
back to the streets of Belfast,
that were not ready yet for peace.
So he decided to make a new start,
and pursue the yankee dream,
and the man from Belfast asked me,
to put him on my team.
See I coached a team of ex-pats,
in the New York City league,
and the story of this player,
filled me with intrigue.
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Well Paddy Joe he showed for training,
and we were amazed at how he played,
and we got him an apartment,
and a job in the building trade.
He weighed in at just nine stone, nine,
and his height was five feet four,
but when Paddy got the leather ball,
you’d be sure that he would score.
There wasn’t a defender in the world,
that Paddy couldn’t beat,
he could head the ball and tackle,
and was briliant with both feet.
The other players they loved him,
they admired his laid back style,
and every minute on the pitch,
on his face he had a smile.
He could still have played professionally,
even in the Prem,
yes everyone in New York knew,
in him we had a gem.
Other teams they offered cash to him,
to try woo him away,
but Paddy Joe made it clear,
it was for us he’d always play.
He loved the post match festivities,
when the drink it was a flying,
even if on Monday,
he knew he would be dying.
We came from behind to win the league that year,
winning our last nine in a row,
and it was mostly down to one man,
‘the wee mawn’ Paddy Joe.
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But Paddy Joe had demons,
that football helped disguise,
and when the season ended,
these demons did arise.
He complained of being homesick,
said he missed his mates and Ma,
and grouched to those who’d listen,
that he’d been let down by the Rah.**
The drinking it got heavier,
it went beyond a joke,
and I heard the word on the street,
that he was snorting lines of coke.
He spent the summer partying,
hanging out in the local bar,
and people got fed up with him,
proclaiming ” I could have been a star.”
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When training started in September,
we suffered a major blow,
cos as I half expected,
their was no sign of Paddy Joe.
I threatened him and begged him,
told him he was letting down the club,
but when we kicked off the season,
Paddy Joe was in the pub.
He started to borrow money,
got into a financial hole,
but when he occasionally showed up,
we were guaranteed a cracking goal.
But then Paddy lost his job,
and with all his money spent,
he was evicted from his apartment,
for not having that months rent.
Eventually we had a whip round,
and put poor Paddy on a plane,
back to the streets of Belfast,
to bullets, tanks and rain.
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Twas about two years later,
when Paddy cropped up, in conversation,
and a fellow from his home town,
told us of his current situation.
He’d broke into a local shop,
with the help of stolen keys,
and the Provo’s exacted their punishment,
by shooting out his knees.
No more he’d dribble past six men,
and score the winning goal,
no, Paddy Joe was destined,
for a life time on the dole.
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He’d only played a year for us,
but it alway seemed like ten,
and I dreamt of Paddy Joe that night,
dribbling past six or seven men.
He was Baxter, Gazza, Bestie,
all rolled into one,
dead at forty two years old,
another tragic Belfast son.