Although born and bred an Aussie, I’ve played football from an early
age and although this might surprise the English, cricket, Aussie rules and
rugby league were always second favourites to soccer. I grew up with both a
brother; Shane, and a sister; Reannon. My mum; Lyn, and my dad: Mark –
an engineer, were always supportive of my game. I attended Albion Park First
School in Wollongong, New South Wales and it was here that I was first introduced
to the game.
As I grew older I started to play in organised games, I was selected for my
school and the district – South Coast, and I always dreamed of playing
in England. One of my mates, Ryan Carr, who played with me for both Wollongong
and South Coast, was a Pomme who’s dad supported the black and white’s
of Newcastle United – strange that I should travel thousands of miles
across the world and make my debut in professional football some forty miles
south of Newcastle at Middlesbrough!
The set-up in Australia is slightly different to that over here. Each area
has an ‘Institute of Sport’ which then feeds into a ‘National
Institute of Sport’. Having been picked for the South Coast, I was then
selected for the National Institute. Each year the National Institute tours
the UK and has an arrangement with the Premier League whereby two players are
chosen for a year at an English club. During our tour, at the age of fifteen,
I did well enough to impress the Middlesbrough scouts, and as a result was asked
back for a two week trial. I did enough to be selected as one of the Aussie
representatives for the English year long trial. However, due to work permit
issues, I wasn’t allowed to take up the opportunity until the age of seventeen.
Without wishing to state the obvious, Middlesbrough is a long way from New
South Wales. My mum was very concerned as to whether I’d settle OK, but
having already spent time at the club, having met the players and being impressed
by the then gaffer; Bryan Robson, even at seventeen I had no doubts that it
was an opportunity I simply couldn’t turn down.
Next Part: Life as a Pro