Born in Darfield, Barnsley on the 21st of October 1982, little was I to know that after starting out with Wombwell Sports at the age of eight, I was to grow up to sign as a professional for my home town club. Although none of my immediate family played at a serious level, my mum was brought up in Boldon in the North East – half the family support Sunderland, the other half; Newcastle. We used to go up there a few times and I took an interest in Newcastle.
In playing for Wombwell I was selected for Barnsley Under 10’s, and also played Sunday football for Barnsley West End. I was normally playing for the team either one or two years older than own age group – and I think this helped develop my game. My step dad; Dave Hancock was running the Barnsley Academy, so it was more than natural that I should join Barnsley.
Two players who I’ve always looked up to were Eric Cantona and Alan Shearer – for different reasons. Cantona’s skills were sublime and whilst Shearer doesn’t have that technical ability, his professionalism and ability to find the back of the net are legendary.
Away from club football my school team were doing well. I was to progress through
the Barnsley schools teams; playing at every age group. At the under 15 level
we won the National competition – no mean feat as this involved about 20 rounds
as every town in the country enters a team!! One of my team-mates was Neil Austin
– now playing with me in the Barnsley first team.
During my last year at school I was offered the chance to player for a number
of teams. I’d never played for a team other than Barnsley, and call it
curiosity or wanting to cover all the bases, but I went to see a number of clubs
– Forest, Sunderland, and Wolves for example. However I stayed with Barnsley
and to be honest, I’ve absolutely no regrets.
Although I started out a centre forward, I now consider myself a midfielder
– although I also play at centre back. I do prefer the midfield role as
you’re more involved in the game, but as long as I’m in the team
I’m generally happy.
Next Part: Life as a Pro