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Life as a Professional

In January 1999 at the age of seventeen I signed a professional contract with Middlesbrough. I settled in to youth team football straight away and by the end of the season I was playing regularly for the reserves.

Looking back, I was up against a number of boys who played in my position, and if I had to single out one, I’d say it was probably Robbie Mustoe who kept me out of the side. But by the end of season 2001/02 I’d broken into the first team, and made my debut away to Southampton on the 6th of March 2002.
Having made eight appearances in my debut season, I doubled this with sixteen in 2002/03.

Although I made some good mates at Boro, particularly the foreign lads such as Brad Jones, Mark Schwarzer, Juninho, Joseph-Desire Job and Szilard Nemeth. It’s natural that the guys from outside the country should have a bond, we had little or no family in the country so therefore looked after eachother. It’s not that we kept apart from the Brits, far from it, we all got on well and socialised together.

Two Aussies together – Mark Schwarzer in the background.

However I wanted regular first team football, I’d been in and out of the side and spent a lot of time on the bench. I talked to my girlfriend Sally, and also to Steve McClaren – now manager at Middlesbrough. The gaffer understood my position and was good enough to tell me that he’d also be looking to strengthen the midfield – my future looked uncertain and it time for a move.

Boro - a great learning experience, some good some bad…

I discussed the situation with my agent and as a result Bristol City came in for me. Although dropping down a couple of divisions, the move was very attractive for me. I met and got on very well with the manager; Danny Wilson. The team looks very strong with a generally young and talented squad, and to be honest, the club is underachieving when playing division two football. The support is great, the club has ambition, and the finances are healthy. Having spent a few months in Bristol, I’m very happy with the move. We have a little girl – Paige and we’re settling into our new environment very well. On the park we’re doing OK and can do better, if our injuries clear up I’m sure we can turn the draws into wins and we’ll be challenging for the top spot. On a personal front I’m adapting to the more physical nature of football in this division and feel that my best football is in front of me.