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Growing Up

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 one.

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



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