Former Preston North End legend Paul McKenna was as cool as a cucumber on the field – now he’s selling them.
The Eccleston-born playmaker has just opened a new fruit and veg shop in his home village and is really looking forward to a challenge of a different kind.
Paul, 35, has gone into business with his lifelong pal Alan Waring.
Together they’ve launched Groceries on the Green.
For Paul, it’s meant swapping the transfer market for the fruit and veg market.
He’s currently training with Bury and hoping to get clinch a deal with them.
He said: “My football career isn’t over yet – I’m still training every day at Bury and hoping to sign a contract there.
“I’ve done pre-season for them. The manager said he wants me to sign but he wants to get a couple off the wage bill.
“So I’m hoping to carry on playing and be in the shop in an afternoon.
“I’m hoping for something to run alongside the football.
“I don’t want it to go bang and think ‘What the hell do I do now?’”
Alan has been growing in the Hesketh Bank/Tarleton area all his life since leaving school. He used to grow for Morrisons
He’s been in fruit and veg for years and finished last year.
“Our sons play football together,” explained Paul. “We were stood at the side chewing over the fat and he said he was thinking of opening a shop in the village.”
So the pair teamed up.
Paul’s wife Joanne, 35 and Alan’s partner Rachel Allsup, 33, also work in the shop which opened on Wednesday, with a visit from the Mayor of Chorley, Coun John Walker.
“I’ve no experience of running a shop, but I’m giving it a go,” said Paul.
“I’ll be helping Alan, going to market. I went the other day. It was a bit of baptism of fire.”
As well as a large selection of fruit and veg, the shop will be selling the likes of meats from local butcher Ken Green; duck and corn-fed chicken from Johnson and Swarbrick, of Goosnargh; bread from a local baker at Bretherton; and dairy products and milk from Chris Rowland at Mawdesley.
“We’re trying to get locally sourced produce,” said Paul, who made his North End debut in 1997 and went on to play more than 420 games for the club.
He also played for Nottingham Forest and Hull City and was loaned out to Fleetwood Town last season.
Paul said he believed people like the close-knit, friendly atmosphere of a village shop.
“They want the personal touch,” he said.
“It was like a conflab centre in here the other day. Everyone knows each other. It’s nice to see.”
And he doesn’t mind early-morning starts and driving the van to market.
“I’ve been driving a van for more than 12 months.
“I also do a lot of match fishing. It’s something I’ve done seriously for a few years.”
Paul and Joanne have three children –Mollie, 16, Jack six and Charlie, five.
With his football career nearing an end, Paul says he’s going to give the grocery business a real shot. It gives me a focus. It’s been a real buzz,” said Paul.