Home > Football > My time at AJ Auxerre…Part 2. Mid-season break

My time at AJ Auxerre…Part 2. Mid-season break

So when Christmas arrived I had some catching up to do. What a two weeks we had. I certainly let my hair down over the festive period.

The two weeks absolutely flew by and it was soon time to return to France. We knew that we would miss friends and family and go back to being locked away in our rooms for hours on end. In short we didn’t want to go back. I think we both made our mind up from then that we didn’t want to stay in France.  Six  months until the end of the season. An eternity. Eventually we convinced ourselves that we hated where we were. When we agreed to sign for AJ Auxerre our contract was 1 year with an option for a further 3 years. Verbally it was a 4 year deal but we saw a chance to get out. Legally the option was with the club but we were so desperate to return to England that we just wanted out.

The day came when they put the 3 year option in front of us to sign. We had told some of the other lads that we were going to turn it down but they didn’t believe us. They had mentioned that the club had us by the balls because they could keep our registration forcing us to sign or not play for any other club for the next three years. In the end I would have considered packing in football to get away from there. Our parents tried to talk us round and make us see sense. My parents knew they were fighting a losing battle pretty soon into it and were brilliant. I recall a telephone conversation with my dad where he just said that he loved me too much to let me feel so bad about the situation. Great parenting. I knew he was on my side and therefore I knew everything would be OK. Kev’s dad was a little less forgiving. To be fair to him he knew that Kev had more than a good chance to force his way into the first team and he was adamant that he stick it out. He even got the club to offer us both money to stay. I think it was about ten grand each. They must have wanted us, or Kev, badly. I made my feelings known very quickly that I had to get back home and Kev had no desire to stay on his own.

The club was not happy at all. I reckon they thought it was part of a big plan to extort more money out of them and they dug their heels in for quite a while. As the season finished nothing had been sorted out. They said that they would find us an English club but it wasn’t happening. We had to report back after the close season and we were distraught. Enough was enough. I was pretty head strong at that time and decided that we should just leave to force their hand. So off we went. Bags packed we caught the train to Paris, underground across Paris to catch a coach to Calais. This took us to Dover where we boarded another coach to London where the final leg of the journey took us by train up to Blackpool. Nobody knew we had gone except our parents. The club had a right panic up when they realised we had gone. They actually rang our parents telling them we had gone missing and they put them in the picture.

A couple of days later I received a call from manager Guy Roux . He was a real French football legend. A Brian Clough type character, very outspoken and a little bit eccentric. All I wanted from him was that he sort me out with an English club. Well good news was on it’s way. Everton and Leeds United were expressing an interest but we would have to go on trial at both clubs. This is because Auxerre were demanding a fee for us and both clubs wanted to have a proper look before they parted with any cash. They both asked for us to go for two weeks but we negotiated a weekly trial for them both. Everton was first. We were put up in a hotel in Liverpool somewhere for a week. Freedom. I’m ashamed  to say that we were on the pop every night. At that time drinking wasn’t frowned upon to the extent that it is these days in football but we really should have got our heads down. It was that bad that on one of the days Kev was that badly hung over that he couldn’t train. I think he said he had sickness and diarrhoea . We did OK at Everton without pulling up any trees. We did slightly better at Leeds . Kev did a lot better than me and it was clear that they wanted him much more than me  but they probably felt like they had to sign us both for the deal to go ahead.  Leeds had just won the old First Division and we couldn’t see how we would get anywhere the first team there. But Everton weren’t prepared to pay a fee for us. Howard Kendall wasn’t keen on paying money  for players who would not be involved in their first team straight away. So in the end we were just glad that Leeds coughed up the £120k for the deal to go through. And home we were.

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