McAteer ready to renew rivalry

By Damian Spellman
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The Independent Football

Jason McAteer will renew his battle with Millwall's wind-up merchant Dennis Wise insisting there is no ill-feeling.

The pair will go head-to-head in the midfield in the semi-final at Old Trafford on Sunday with a place in the cup final at stake having already locked horns in the league this season.

McAteer was furious at the Millwall player-manager's antics during his side's 2-1 defeat at the New Den back in January and gave vent to his feelings after the final whistle.

However, after years of coming across the now 37-year-old Wise during his days at first Wimbledon and then Chelsea, McAteer knows exactly what to expect this weekend and is relishing the challenge.

"I thought long and hard after that game and at the end of the day, I like to think of myself as a 100 per cent player who gives everything and battles for everything," he said. "When I'm on the pitch, I've got a will to win and sometimes you'll do anything to do it.

"Sometimes I look at Dennis and he's probably out of the same pod. We were just two professionals fighting for three points that day and the battle got a little bit personal - he kicked me in the head and all that kind of stuff - it just got out of hand really and was a little bit silly.

"I look back at the game itself and maybe I got wrapped up in it and didn't really perform that day. I could have played better and I was disappointed with myself that I actually got caught up in that kind of battle.

"Obviously I don't want to go down that road and renew that kind of battle that we had. I've played against him years and years and years. He's always been the same, Dennis.

"He's been a great pro and he's honest. He's been a great professional and he's doing really well at Millwall and it's nice to see that."

The fact McAteer is preparing for a semi-final at all has come as a huge bonus to him after admitting he thought his days at the Stadium of Light might be up as the club's financial problems hit hard after relegation.

Twenty three professionals left, and the Republic of Ireland international revealed that at one point, he feared he would be among them.

"I was actually wondering if I was going to be here myself the way the lads were moving out of here," he said. "When I went down the dressing room and there was no name on my locker, I knew I was in trouble so I just started panicking.

"But the gaffer gave me a chance. I've been with him for years and knows what I am all about.

"We sat down and spoke, because I was injured at the time and my contract is up in the summer and players were moving out left, right and centre. I think we lost 18 players in the last year with the money situation and I thought I was probably going to be a candidate to leave.

"But he stuck by me like he always has done and hopefully I've repaid him in the games that I've been back and played for him.

"I was desperate to stay with Mick. I had my time with Graeme (Souness) and I know what it's like when you get a manager you really want to play for.

"Sometimes they're hard to come by and it makes the job so much easier when you've got a manager you really want to play for.

"Every day, you go in with a smile on your face, and that was the case here."