The big money move to QPR hurt Stoke fans because we knew we would lose a goalscoring hero and it showed the club may have lacked ambition. Was it an easy decision to leave?
The move away from Stoke was annoying on so many levels. I had been so frustrated at Norwich and was thoroughly enjoying my time at Stoke. I was receiving great accolades from the fans and from people in the game and genuinely did not want to leave. My wife and I had just had our first child and everything seemed to be perfect. However, the club seemed quite content in selling me to raise money for the new stadium and I felt the ambition shown by QPR meant they would be more likely to challenge for promotion to the Premier League.
The club never seemed to be too well off financially and moving to The Britannia was a major move forward for the club. I accept that the bigger picture for the club was more important than keeping Mike Sheron at the club. This I found difficult to accept, but for the club’s long term planning a new stadium was essential.
How do you remember your return to Stoke with your new club?
My return to Stoke with my new club was a pretty daunting experience and one I didn’t enjoy, especially when we lost to a team who had struggled all season. I didn’t play too well but was fouled for the penalty from which we scored.
Your career never seemed to hit the same highs again. Why do you think that was?
Yes, my career never hit the heights again – but I think I improved as a football player. I did help Barnsley reach the Play Off Final in 2000 and won the Johnstone Paint Trophy with Blackpool in 2004.
Who is the toughest defender you ever faced? Why?
Sol Campbell. His strength and power were his major attributes and I remember running into him once and felt like I’d run into a wall.
…..And the best player you ever played with?
Darren Anderton/Steve McManaman. Both players had pace, vision and dribbling attributes in abundance. They were very much team orientated players too.
…..and the best manager you ever played under? Why?
Gerry Francis/Bruce Rioch. I had 22 managers in a 17 year career but felt these two matched how I genuinely believe the game should be played.
What was it like representing England at under 21 level? Did you play with/against some top players?
I loved playing for England Under 21s. I made 16 appearances, scored 6 goals and always made myself available for selection. I went to Toulon two summers in a row and beat France in the Final in 1993. In my England career I played alongside future internationals Andy Cole, Robbie Fowler, Chris Sutton, Rob Jones, Sol Campbell, Ian Walker, Jamie Redknapp and the aforementioned Anderton and McManaman.
The best player I remember playing against was Edgar Davids when we beat Holland 3-1 at Portsmouth’s Fratton Park ground. I think Peter Hoekstra played in that game too.
Do you have any career regrets?
No real regrets as I’m quite an optimistic person and believe you make your own luck in football as you do in life. Experiences are both positive and negative and it’s important how you react to them that matter. I loved my career as a professional footballer as it’s all I ever wanted to do and I’m very grateful for the career I did have.
The 150th Anniversary celebrations…..
That day at the Brit was sensational for the 150th anniversary. I wish I had brought my family and they could have seen what a fantastic ground the Brit is and to hear first-hand the fantastic support of the Stoke faithful.
What are you doing and what will you do?
I am currently Head of Academy Coaching at Rotherham United and really enjoy the role I have. I look after the Youth Team on a daily basis and help our part time coaches coach in the Academy in the evenings. I hope to continue to develop my career as a coach and stay in the game for a good while yet.