Rob Swire was Manchester United’s assistant physio from 1991 -1999, mostly working with the youth teams and reserve team and then head physio from 1999-2014. There, he worked alongside Sir Alex Ferguson and helped the club win 35 trophies. In his time he treated more than 1000 injuries, working with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.
Before working at United, he worked at the NHS for 5 years and then at Halifax town. He now lectures nationally and internationally in sport injury management and works as a consultant for the Injured Jockeys Funds where he guides the rehabilitation of injured jockeys.
Swire has been interviewed in the ‘This Football Life’ podcast released by Tifo Football.
How did you go from Halifax Town to Manchester United?
There was a physiotherapy journal that came out every month with scientific articles in it and also the general chit chat around it, and they had all the adverts from jobs in there. They didn’t say Manchester United, they just said that a football club was looking for a masseur, so not even a physiotherapist, but they were advertising in a physiotherapy journal which seemed strange. So I thought I can always apply and see, if they were after a masseur, that’s fine, I won’t be suitable for that role. They were after a physio, but they didn’t want to advertise that because they’d have too many applicants. So I went for that and did a couple interviews and ended up getting that job as a physiotherapist.
Who was the funniest player while you were there?
Nicky Butt was always a funny man, he livened up the changing room everyday.
You’re smiling right now. Is there any particular incident you are thinking about?
No, no, there are too many to think of. I can’t think of any off the top of my head. He was just a really good man for the team-building in the changing room. He was very good with the young players who came in. He was a senior established player, playing for England, Manchester United, won so many trophies and everything, The young players who came in, he was really good with them. Not in a friendly way, he wasn’t friendly but he would involve them all the time, often in a bit of friendly banter and everything, but were inclusive. He was very good with the young players coming in and it made their integration much easier.
What’s something fans don’t realise about physios?
It’s far more professional than what is sometimes portrayed in the press, they’re coming out with things. Sometimes its smoke and daggers behind managers of saying a player has got this injury or not go that injury and it evolves for the next few days or few weeks and a player who is supposed to be playing on Saturday is suddenly out for six months. Behind the scenes that’ll all be known about and be managed properly but sometimes the manager likes to confuse the opposition about who might be playing, who might not be playing. So sometimes I got the feeling it might look like we were incompetent. If I read the paper, it might come across like some club doesn’t know what they’re doing, but they’ll fully know what they’re doing behind the scenes.
Were you ever called onto the pitch for someone who was playacting?
On many, many occasions. We look certainly going on the pitch, when the refs waving you on, so everyone’s watching, you’ve got to go on, you know full well nothing’s wrong with them but you have to go along and show concern and carry on. But that would happen regularly yes.
What is your proudest achievement?
I’d say Wes Brown, cause he injured both cruciate [ligaments] at the beginning of his career. I think he played a couple times for the team and injured one cruciate, he got back successfully from that and then a year or two later he injured the other knee with a cruciate injury and he got back from that and he’s still playing now in India. He was one of the first injuries I got when I became Head Physio in 1991 so from 1991 to 2017 he’s still playing football on a cruciate injured knee so that’s perhaps my proudest professional achievement.
On Sir Alex Ferguson…
I’ve learned a lot from him in general life, not just football. Little bits all the time. He was a big believer in youth and supporting youth. Not just in football, not just with football players. He does a lot of charity work that he keeps quiet. He doesn’t shout about his charity work but he does a lot of charity work for supporting kids for getting on in life and being more successful in life, not just focused on sport. He was very good with that and he used to say little things like that you could take out to your own life, with your own kids as well.