My mother Chris watches every game, she's a season ticket holder and a big
Newcastle supporter. During my time at Bolton she kept her season ticket at
Newcastle and she loves her football! My brother John was also a trainee at
Newcastle, a centre-back and a goalkeeper, he was on the books at Newcastle
for a year before moving to Aston Villa where he spent another season. Unfortunately
he picked up a bad knee injury and this effectively forced him to concentrate
on his goalkeeping. After his year in Birmingham he moved home and now works
for a bank in Newcastle whilst playing semi-pro in the Northern League. He's
had a few clubs, so much so that he was actually banned by the F.A. for a time
for moving clubs too many times, so the old joke about 'more clubs than Jack
Nicklaus' is definitely accurate for him. He still follows Newcastle, although
with playing on a Saturday, doesn't get to see many games.
I grew up in Gosforth and went to Gosforth Park First School, Gosforth East
Middle, and then Gosforth High School - a few years after Alan Shearer left
the school. I suppose I was the typical footballer at school, interested in
little else but the next match.
As I grew up I started to make a name for myself. I played for England Youth
team and then progressed to the under 18's. At the time, Southampton - who had
a very strong North East presence, invited me to their Centre of Excellence.
I also had school-boy trials with Man Utd but it was never going to work. There
were simply too many kids trying to make an impression, and in the limited time
available it was very difficult to prove yourself. Back then I was quite shy
and I would have needed time to settle in, time isn't what we got. However there
were a few of us from that trial that went on to make it, Nick Barmby being
At the end of the day I'm a Geordie and when, at the age of 17, I was offered
a two-year professional contract, it didn't take much thinking about - I was
just so happy to sign.
Next Part: Life as a Pro