Chops and I signed at the same time. We were part of Dave Jones’ big influx of players. And we all bonded right away. We were a really tight bunch and all got on from the off.
It’s fair to say Chopra is one of the best players I’ve played alongside – one who maybe didn’t fulfil his potential. He had it all. Goal scoring ability, he could make them for others, and he’d make them for himself. Tap ins, free kicks, long range, short range. He was a proper poacher.
He hit the ground running at Cardiff and linked up really well with Thommo. I think people overlook how good they were together – Chopra was the perfect foil for Thommo. That first season, it was probably Thommo’s injury that derailed our promotion run. We struggled for form when he got injured.
I remember us going to Southend that season and smashing them 3-0. We just clicked all across the park. You had Purse and Loovens at the back. Kerrea and Parry down one wing; myself and Ledley down the other. Chops and Thommo up top. And against Southend, MacPhail and Ricci clicked so well. But it was when we encountered a few injuries that things derailed that year. We had a great first XI but not so great back up. There was a spell of 10 games where we didn’t win – and it was Jason Byrne at Wolves that broke that up.
That was an odd day. The Cardiff fans were banned from the ground for some reason or another and it didn’t help that Wolves battered us for 90 minutes. Until Jason scored and the whole ground went silent. It was so bizarre celebrating to silence and running around, not sure where to turn.
It wasn’t really a surprise when Chopra left that season. It was just the state of the club and Dave Jones had to sell to buy. When I was there, we lost Chops, Roger Johnson, Joe, Rambo, and a few others. To be fair to Dave, he was great at replacing players he sold, he had an eye for a good player – which is why he probably signed me.
But Chops was always going to attract interest that season. He was one of the best strikers I’ve played with and he scored 20-odd goals in his first year. We all expected him to go off and smash the Premier League but, for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. And it was like Cardiff was drawing him back. He seemed to have his best spells at Cardiff.
He picked up where he left off when we moved to the CCS. Chops and Jay really linked up well and I can’t imagine a better striking duo in the Championship. Both should have gone on to play Premier League football but, truthfully, ability isn’t always the thing to get you over the line. You’d need a bit of luck, a bit of mental strength perhaps.
They were different types of player. If you gave Jay some stick in training, his head would drop a little bit. Chops, you’d want him on your side in small sided games. He scored and scored and worked himself hard. He had this trick of getting himself offside and then working back into the game. It was a nightmare to defend against.
Both of them have gone on to have decent careers. I think Chopra had to call it quits in the end due to ankle problems – it really was in a bad way. Jay’s still going in Japan – if he’s looked after himself, he’s hell of an athlete. A really strong boy.
The famous hotel room incident
Chops mentioned the hotel room incident. I’m not in the business of grassing people up but what I will say is that I was there and I didn’t actually damage anything. A fire extinguisher was involved and I pulled the pin and shouted grenade. But I didn’t let the thing off. The player who started firing it about won’t be named but he was a Scottish brother of mine. What I do know is that we made hell of a mess because the extinguisher turned out to be full of sand! And we had to pay for the damage. To be fair, it serves Terry right for joining the squad on tour.
We always had good crack behind the scenes. I think in my first pre-season we ended up going to Canada for 11 days. Which is a hell of a long time to be away from home. We were also relative unknowns in a different country so we had a lot of fun. It was genuinely one of the best squads I’ve known for the camaraderie between the boys.
Chops flew over for my testimonial and it was great to see him. We keep tabs on each other through social media but keeping in touch with the boys is harder as everyone’s away. But it was great to see him.
Chopra: ‘Kev could turn up for training pissed and win a marathon’
Aye, it’s true. One of my major attributes – and one I’m proud of – is being able to run hungover. I’m a naturally fit lad and I could get away with a fair bit. After our preseason night out, I was more than capable of running a marathon – some of the lads say I was better hungover! I’m still playing Junior football up in Scotland. It’s good fun, still enjoying playing – even if we are bottom of the league! My bodies just hanging on by a thread – thankfully, I don’t run fast enough to pull my hamstrings…