Football has been in my life for as long as I can remember, although as my
dad played professionally it’s easy to understand why! I owe a lot to
both my mum; Lesley and my dad, Keith. They gave me support and encouragement
but were never pushy or demanding. My dad played 533 first team games for Charlton
– his one and only club. After managing both Gillingham and Maidstone,
he went back to The Valley as Reserve Team Manager and was then promoted to
Assistant Manager in 1998.
As a role model I couldn’t have asked for anyone better, he was always
there to advise and give his opinion. I know that he also enjoyed my career,
not just as a proud father looking at my development within football, but he
also once told me that it was as if he was living his career for a second time.
With my dad spending his full playing career at Charlton, I was lucky enough
to have been brought up without the disruption of moving from school to school.
My first school was Hillsgrove in Welling, and it wasn’t long before I’d
be looking forward to break times and the ‘kickabout’ on the school
yard. As I got older I progressed to Bexley Grammar, and started to represent
my district; North Kent, then at about 14 years old I made the full Kent side.
In later years Matthew Rose, currently at QPR, would also follow in my footsteps
as a student at Bexley Grammar.
At this age I began to gain the attention of the national set-up, and went on
to represent England from under 15 level right through to the under 21’s.
I went on to make two England training camps (during the 1994/95 season), although
never actually made the full squad. Of course, with playing at an international
level I was given a great platform to attract the scouts from the big clubs.
I also developed a passion for golf and, I still enjoy the game when at play
at the London Club. At the age of 15 I was fortunate enough to have had the choice of Liverpool,
Aston Villa, and all the London clubs. It was an honour to be in such a position
although it made for a tough choice. One of the major factors in choosing my
first club wasn’t necessarily the size of the club, but whether I’d
be given a chance. Some clubs have a reputation for bringing their players through,
others for buying in talent.
QPR was of the former, and in Terry Venables, they had a young, forward thinking,
and highly talented manager. In November 1984 I signed apprentice forms at the
club and began what was to be my first spell at the West London club.
Next Part: Life as a Pro