First professional match attended
I might have gone to a couple of matches before, but the first one that stands out in my mind would be the 1990 FA Cup Final Replay. Growing up I was a Crystal Palace fan, and after a 3-3 draw in the first game I went to the old Wembley for the Replay. It was a great experience, other than the result – Manchester United nicked it 1-0 thanks to a goal from Lee Martin.
First club supported
I was born in Wandsworth and grew up in the area, so Palace was my team as a kid. I started going to watch them more frequently as I got older, and it was always very enjoyable. I used to love watching games and the build up to kick-off. I remember them having a couple of decent kits back in the day too.
I had a pair of Puma boots, very popular back then they were, largely because they were endorsed by Paul Gascoigne. If I remember correctly they had Gazza’s signature on the side.
First club joined
That would be a little team called Chipstead - that was my first proper club. I’d played for a children’s team in my local village but that was just a bit of fun. Chipstead is where I started playing properly.
Obviously I worked with Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, but I always consider Steve Coppell to be my first real manager as he was the one that gave me my first break when I was on loan at Brentford in my late teens. I’ve worked with a few times down the years and, for me, he’s a fantastic man manager. He was someone that always encouraged.
Over the years I’ve probably played in a variety of positions, but centre midfield was always the position of choice. That’s where I’ve always loved to play, and it’s where I played best. It’s a good position to play because there’s a lot that goes on in the middle of the pitch – you see a lot of the ball.
First match for Fulham
I made my debut in the 2-0 defeat of Stoke City in January 2011. I’d just come in on loan from Aston Villa and Mark Hughes was the Manager. I replaced Dickson Etuhu after about an hour and having been 2-0 up and them down to 10 men following Ryan Shawcross’ red card, it was just a case of seeing the game through. I made my first start against Liverpool a week later at Anfield.
That was for Brentford against Blackpool in a Division Two clash back in November 2001. It was a nice goal to be fair, a half-volley that flew into the back of the net. We won 2-0 and I believe Lloyd Owusu scored the other goal. My first goal for Fulham was against Liverpool at the end of the 2010/11 season and it was another half-volley. Unfortunately we lost that one 5-2.
My first consistent roommate was Andy Hughes during my Reading days. We don’t really have roommates now, not at Fulham, Chelsea or Aston Villa. It might be a thing that teams from lower down the divisions do a bit more of, but I always liked it. Andy was a character, and one of many to be fair – including Graham Stack and John Oster.
First shirt number
I’ve always tried to wear the number four shirt, ever since I was a kid. It’s a number that goes well with the position that I play. That said, I wear number seven at Fulham, but that’s been a good number too. I’ve done well with both.
First football hero
As a Crystal Palace fan growing up, the main man was Ian Wright. I just loved his enthusiasm for the game, and just his general exuberance. He was a fantastic striker, and could score all types of goals.