MBE for Larne footballer Gareth McAuley

Gareth McAuley.
Gareth McAuley.

Larne-born footballer Gareth McAuley has been awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours List.

Gareth, who has captained his national team and has been capped 80 times, has been awarded the honour for his services to football in Northern Ireland.

He currently plays for Glasgow Rangers after leaving West Bromwich Albion in the summer.

He began his career with Linfield and went on to play for Ballyclare Comrades, Crusaders and Coleraine, before earning a move to England and Lincoln City in 2004 where he spent two years before moving to Leicester City and then to Ipswich Town.

In May 2011, he moved to Premier League West Brom, and after seven seasons with the Midlands club and 203 appearances before joining Rangers this season.

McAuley scored one of the most memorable goals in the history of Northern Irish football at Euro 2016, grabbing their first goal at a tournament in 30 years in their 2-0 defeat of Ukraine in Lyon.

He is also the highest ever scoring defender for his country, with nine goals to his name so far.

A delighted Gareth said: “Larne in Northern Ireland is a long way from Ibrox Park, but that’s the thing about football.

“You never know when you start out how or when it’s going to end or where you are going to visit along the way.

“The fact that I’ve received this amazing honour before my playing career has ended and that I am going to visit Buckingham Palace is something that I would never have anticipated during my early years in the game.

Lisburn Youth, Linfield, Ballyclare Comrades, Crusaders, Coleraine; who knew that via Lincoln City, Leicester City, Ipswich Town and West Bromwich Albion I would arrive at the club I have supported since I was a kid.

“My roots are in Northern Ireland and the fact that I’ve been able to represent my country 80 times and played in the European Championships is something of which I am so proud.

“I’ve done my best throughout my career to put something back into the community and I hope that the honour I’ve just been awarded inspires youngsters in Northern Ireland and encourages them always to believe that nothing is beyond them.

“Even having just turned 39, I always dreamed the best was ahead, and this indeed is the best.

“There are so many people who have helped me along the way, helped me to continue to believe in myself both as a person and as a professional footballer.

“I simply cannot name them all, but they know who they are and how much I owe to them.

And then there’s my family, and in particular my wife Fran and my children Bobby and Lexi who, along with all footballers’ families, put up with so much for the sake of their husbands and dads’ careers.

“My parents Mildred and Billy always demonstrated belief in me and I fully intend to share this honour with them and all my family, friends, team-mates, managers, coaches and supporters who have made it possible and travelled with me this far down the road and for the rest of the journey.

Rangers managing director Stewart Robertson said: “Everyone at Rangers Football Club is delighted for Gareth and his family at this news, this honour is well deserved.

Gers boss Steven Gerrard said: “I think it is certainly deserved for Gareth for the services he has given to football. Congratulations to him and his family, I am sure it will be a proud day.”