Nigel Callaghan: ‘If I was meant to die I’d have died on that table’

Watford’s opposite winger to John Barnes in the 1984 FA Cup final finished playing at 30, has recovered from cancer twice and is happy working as a DJ in Staffordshire

“At the moment, I’m happy doing what I’m doing,” Nigel Callaghan says. “I’d sooner be a millionaire, but I’m happy.” He takes a sip of his cola and looks around the pub in Stafford, his adopted hometown, full of people taking advantage of the cheap fish and chips on a Friday lunchtime. “Financially I made nothing out of football. I’m as rich as the next person in here. People say to me: ‘How much would you be on now?’ I’ll never know. When I was playing I’d put myself up there with the top?10 crossers of the ball – I could hit a ball off one stride. I could whip them in, I could bend them. Full-backs didn’t know whether to get tight or stand off.”

Watford face Manchester City in Saturday’s FA Cup final but when they last reached this stage, in 1984, Callaghan was the 21-year-old whose pinpoint deliveries from the right wing – along with those of John Barnes on the opposite flank – were the cornerstone of Graham Taylor’s tactical plan. But he has not played since the mid-1990s, with any hopes of a return to even the occasional social kickabout having ended when he was diagnosed with arthritis a decade ago. “I don’t know if it’s got anything to do with the football,” he says. “I certainly got kicked a bit when I was a winger; that won’t have done me any good.”

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