Ex-Premier League hard man now drives busy trains years after crunching tackles

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Former Birmingham City and Coventry City hard man Martin Grainger swapped driving opposition forwards around the bend for driving London trains around a track since hanging up his boots.

Grainger, who is now 49, started out at Colchester United and helped the Essex minnows win promotion from the Conference during the 1991-92 season.

It wasn't long before bigger fish came calling, and in 1993 he joined Brentford for a fee of £60,000, a not inconsiderable sum for the time.

After three seasons at Griffin Park, Grainger joined Birmingham, where he enjoyed more success, helping the Blues win promotion to the Premier League and reach the 2001 League Cup final.

He quickly became an inspirational figure at St Andrews due to his incredible consistency and ability from set-pieces, winning the club's player of the season award at the turn of the millennium.

Following promotion to the top-flight, and amid struggles with injury, Grainger's playing time became more limited, and he joined Midlands rivals Coventry City on loan.

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He made just seven appearances for the Sky Blues before returning to Birmingham, where he played four more times and scored against Manchester United in his final match before hanging up his boots.

Following his retirement, Grainger moved to Hertfordshire and dabbled in non-league football as manager of Cheshunt before becoming a delivery driver and joining a VIP chauffeur agency.

These days, though, the former no-nonsense defender has found his second calling as a train driver, ferrying London's commuters about from pillar to post on the capital's rail network.

Grainger spoke to the Blues Talk Podcast at the start of the pandemic and revealed what it was like to be out and about working while everyone else was locked up indoors.

"It's strange," he said. "There are some days when there's not a lot of people around, and the other day I had 200 or 300 people on the train.

"It's surreal really," he concluded.

Grainger's son, Charlie also has the football bug and previously starred for England U18s and Leyton Orient between 2012 and 2019.

These days, the 25-year-old shot stopper is a key member of the Dulwich Hamlet side fighting for promotion at the top of the National League South, with dad Martin a regular at matches.

  • Premier League
  • Colchester United FC
  • Brentford FC
  • Birmingham City FC
  • Coventry City FC

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