Home > Football, Previous clubs > My time at..FC Utrecht Part 1. A day to remember.

My time at..FC Utrecht Part 1. A day to remember.

So at 24 I was making my second attempt at playing football abroad. The stint in France with AJ Auxerre was right after leaving school. This was another great opportunity for me to play at a higher leven than I had been used to for a while.

Utrecht did plenty of homework on me. They watched me numerous times towards the end of the 1998-99 season. Their Technical Director was ex-Notts Forest goalkeeper and Dutch legend Hans van Breukelen.  First team coach was Mark Wotte who has since managed Southampton without too much success.

The transfer was completed in one day. They flew out my dad and I to Holland for talks. As the agents talked money I was at the local hospital for what can only be described as unbelievably thorough medical. I knew that I was in good health if I came through that experience with flying colours. Luckily I did.

All in all it was too good a chance to turn down. There was interest from a few clubs in England but I would have regretted it if I had turned down this opportunity. I agreed to sign there and then so back home in time for tea!

My partner at the time, and now wife, Mandy and I had a few weeks before we set off for our new life in Holland. In between I needed to go over to Holland for another day trip to search for a house for us to live in. The club sent over their removals firm to ferry our belongings over to Utrecht. Mandy was eight and a half  months pregnant when we were due to leave. This meant that we could not fly over to Holland and had to travel by ferry.

Our journey was particularly memorable as Mandy very nearly gave birth on the ferry. We set off from Hull on the evening of 1st July 1999. We arrived at Rotterdam early the following morning where Mandy’s waters had broken. The club official who collected us from the docks at Rotterdam didn’t know what to do. Off we rushed to the hospital in Utrecht which what seemed like a million miles away. Our first son, Jack, was born at 6.33 pm that evening. We were told afterwards that if she had gone into labour on the ferry then, depending on which country we were closest to, she would have been air lifted to the nearest hospital.

Obviously this was a huge day in my life. It hadn’t happened quite as expected but things never do. I received a call from Mark Wotte at the hospital later that evening who congratulated us and reminded me that pre-season training was due to start at 10am the following morning.  My head was all over the place. The last thing on my mind was pre-season training. Given that I was at a new club in a foreign country made this out to be a particularly difficult time. Talk about thrown in at the deep end.

I arrived for training the following day in a bit of a haze. I felt exhausted and completely out of my comfort zone as I knew nobody and didn’t understand a word anybody was saying. We were all weighed initially. This is standard stuff on the opening day of pre-season training. Over the course of the summer I had not done too much of my own training. I had started every match for Scunthorpe United in the 1998-99 season and only had about 4 weeks rest as the season went down to the play-off final at Wembley. I needed to rest. I have to admit to probably eating more than normal though. As Mandy was pregnant I found myself taking on extra snacks than I would usually have. In all honesty I would say that I was about 4 or 5 pounds over my weight from my medical.  It wasn’t ideal but certainly nothing to worry about. Or so I thought.

I would like to say thank you to the sponsors of this blog: JJB SPORTS who have a 3 for 2 offer.

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