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Life as a Professional

At the age of 17 I signed a two and half year contract with Everton. By now I was occasionally training with the first team and in the October Walter Smith asked me to travel with the firsts to an away game at Newcastle. Although I didn’t make my debut, it was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed. As it happened, I had a few more months to wait before my debut – replacing Alex Cleland who was injured in the 32nd minute of a 3-1 away win at Coventry.

The following season, 2001/2002, I wasn’t to make a first team appearance until the January, and then ended up playing ten games including my first Merseyside derby. It was a tremendous experience – helped the fact that I was given the man of the match award.

A yellow card from Ellary – but ‘Man of the Match’

At the age or 19/20 I was now expecting to become a first team regular. However with Walter Smith leaving the club it become obvious that his replacement; David Moyes didn’t see me as being ready. However the gaffer called me in and asked if I would consider a loan deal. I told him that I’d rather be playing in Everton’s first team but also accepted that any first team experience would be beneficial. He told me that Blackpool had come in for me and I realised that I would be better spending a few months with them as opposed to Everton’s reserve side. As a result I went up to speak to Steve McMahon and he did a very good job in selling the club to me. I signed a three-month loan deal with a view to extending it for the full season.

Chesterfield's David Reeves holds off Blackpool's Peter Clarke Division Two

I enjoyed my time at Bloomfield Road, they’ve a good team spirit and a great manager in Steve McMahon. Having worked with Steve’s brother John, at Lilleshall, they share some similarities in that they’re both highly competitive and like to play good football. The club is also run well and they aren’t one of the many teetering on the brink of financial collapse.

However with a few injury problems back at Everton, and after sixteen games and three goals for Blackpool, David Moyes recalled me as cover. Unfortunately for me, the only game I played in was the infamous FA Cup defeat at Shrewsbury – a team managed by the ex-Everton player Kevin Ratcliffe, who’s team would later be demoted out of the Nationwide league.

Brian Horton

Football league rules dictate that I was not able to return to Blackpool that season. I could have extended the loan to the full season but wasn’t able to return to Everton and then resume at Bloomfield Road. However, once the busy Christmas period was over, Port Vale came in for me – again on a loan deal. Having played and scored against Port Vale for Blackpool, I knew they were a decent team. Brian Horton, the Vale manager was another honest man and enjoyed playing for him. I also met up with Ian Armstrong, a player I’d roomed with at Lilleshall.

At the end of three month loan period I returned to Everton for the last few weeks of the season.

I still had time to play a few England Under 21 games as we attempted to qualify for the European Championships to be held in 2004. Unfortunately Portugal and Turkey were too strong for us, as I write in September 2003, we look like finishing third in our qualifying group.

Joe Cole – fellow Lilleshall graduate

As we start the 2003/04 season, I hope to regain my position in the Everton first team squad. Things could be better at Goodison, and at times it can be very frustrating – especially when so many of my England colleagues are enjoying first team action. However all I can do is train well and if I’m given the chance, then it’s up to me to take the opportunity.