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

October 20, 2010 Leave a comment

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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My time at Leeds United…Part 1. Back home at last

October 10, 2010 Leave a comment

 

I signed for Leeds United in the September 1992 .It was the season which followed Leeds United’s First Division championship success. It was the first season of the newly formed Premier League. Sky Sports had just paid massive money for the TV rights and it seemed like the game was due to be taken to the next level. Leeds at that time were a club who were spending a lot of money and were assembling a squad full of big names with big reputations. Not that the fee paid for myself and Kevin Sharp from AJ Auxerre was going to break the bank.£120 k was the amount. I remember feeling more relieved than anything that my French nightmare had ended. When signing I thought that it was highly unlikely that I will get a chance in the first team but it was just great to be back in England again, back to normality. Another plus for me was the fact that a couple of old team-mates were already there. Mark Tinkler who I played with for England schoolboy’s U 15’s and Scott Cousins, who I was with at the National School at Lilleshall helped me settle in. Luckily we all ended up in the same digs together. Our digs were in Beeston, just at the top of the hill from Elland Road. The four of us stayed in the house of a family. They cooked,washed and cleaned up after us.Well I was nearly 18 years old!! To be fair to our landlady it wasn’t her responsibility to tell us when we had to be in and the places we should and shouldn’t go. The first weekend there all I could think about was getting a night out. There was a lot of lads there around my age so that weekend there was a good turn out, probably 8 or 9 of us. Early on in the evening I remember walking from one bar to another. We must have had a few, well on our way! I was a new boy so I kept myself to myself. The next thing I knew someone suggested that we turn a parked car over. S**t ! I mean I wanted a good night out and all that but I’d never done anything like that before. So within seconds there is a mob of lads rocking a random car from all angles trying to turn it upside down. So what should I do, I thought? Well I’ve just signed for one of the biggest clubs in the country about 4 days ago but I really did want to be accepted by my peers and as they say ‘many hands makes light work’ so all hands to the pump. So within a minute or two the car was on it’s roof greeted with a loud cheer from everybody involved and already I was one of the boys. At the time it seemed a bit of a laugh but what was I thinking?

Although I was 17 when I signed I immediately signed as a professional. This was a little unorthodox because I was training and playing in the youth team which was full of apprentices. As a result I didn’t have to clean boots or do all of the regular ‘jobs’ which was expected. What a result! When training had finished I was straight off to the bookies or the snooker hall while the other lads got on with sweeping floors and cleaning toilets. Looking back it wouldn’t have been a bad idea for me to have done those jobs. It was possibly the first signs of me thinking more of myself than I should have. That is one thing that has been eradicated from the game today. These days the scholars, as they are now called, are given less to do. I’m still not sure what is right or wrong. I do think they should be given some responsibilities though.

One player who had signed at a similar time to myself was a goalkeeper called Paul Pettinger. He was a nice enough lad to be fair to him. He hadn’t quite managed to settle in as well as Kev and I and had got some of the young lads backs up somehow so one day they decided to put him in his place. Off went his clothes, well most of them, . He was then tied up outside against the changing rooms and on went boot polish all over his face. The lads took it upon themselves to grab a load of balls and pelt him at point-blank range. Wow.  Well this must have gone on for a good couple of minutes and I felt for him.I can honestly say that I wasn’t one of the ones who fired a ball at him. That was a step too far for me. And a step too far for his mum who caused all sorts of havoc for Paul Hart and his staff.I think he was off for about a week after that incident. Poor lad. If that had happened in more recent times I am pretty sure that somebody would have lost their job but it seemed to be quickly forgotten at the time.

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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