Your debut was like a dream. You got a standing ovation when you came out to warm up and you scored that amazing free kick. You were a massive signing for the club, in so many ways. Did you feel the pressure of the expectations placed upon you?
Oh yeah. I felt pressure because I wasn’t in good condition.
My knee wasn’t great and I hadn’t trained much over the previous month to prepare for the game. When you’re feeling great, things take care of themselves, but when you haven’t had the preparation you would want, that’s when nerves set in. They might be asking for more than I’m capable of giving at the moment. You can’t control as many situation as you would like.
It wasn’t a great game by me. Honestly, it wasn’t. I got through it, but I had one or two good moments. When I look back at the game, I was average! I was leading up to Christmas to be honest. After the first few games, I had about six weeks out with an injury, but what was in my head was the last three or four months of the season. That’s when you get promoted and that’s when it counts. If we’re in touching distance, I can excel from there.
The nerves leading up to my debut was the most tense I’ve ever been leading up to a game.
Cardiff played some lovely stuff that year. The 4-0 win at Leeds was probably the best I have ever seen a Cardiff side play. They looked destined for promotion, so where did it all go wrong?
Bad habits. If you don’t train well consistently, it will catch you out. We were always going to dip. We were always going to come good in certain games, but then we were going to dip again because we didn’t have the discipline on a day to day basis to see you over the line. It was no coincidence that Cardiff lost out in play-offs or cup finals. It was their mentality.
You will get what you deserve in the end and we got what we deserved. We had ability, but we didn’t have the work rate or intensity in training to see us through those tough moments. You’re not always going to play well, but its your mentality that will get you through that. I knew we were going to come up short.
How did you find working with Dave? He’s remembered fondly for the football Cardiff played, but there were always question marks about discipline and whether or not he indulged players too much.
I loved Dave. He gave you a lot of freedom to play and he would tell players what was what, but I thought he was too soft at times. He was stern, but he would let players get away with too much and that was detrimental to the group in the end. That’s my feeling on it. He did get the best out of some players who overachieved with him, and that’s a talent on its own.
If you look at Dave’s record at Cardiff, it was incredible. From where he took over the club to when he finished, they got better and better. Always wheeling and dealing. His longevity and how he tried to play speaks volumes. The players he was able to bring in, the players he sold, transfer embargos. He will go down as one of Cardiff’s top, top managers in my lifetime. He was always knocking on the door and got to an FA Cup final! You would never have thought that would be possible.
Were you keen to stay at the end of the season? At the time, it sounded like you were priced out of a move.
I spoke to Steve Borley quite a bit. I like hm a lot and he truly adores Cardiff. I would always be in contact with Steve and when Dave went, I was surprised. There were a lot of things that needed to happen for me to go back to Cardiff again.
Alan Shearer was going to get the job, so they rang me up and said Alan was going to ring me. He wanted me to come to Cardiff with him, so I thought that would be an interesting phone call! He didn’t ring and turned the job down at the last minute, which was a huge mistake for him, but it was a difficult job to come in to because so many players had gone and there was no money to spend.
Malky got the job and I knew him from Norwich. He was like a McNaughton type of player, in that he was a good pro. He would give everything he had, but we used to say he had his boots on the wrong way round! He could defend though, lead the team, trained like it was a game and had a great attitude. He loved the game and was very disciplined. I liked playing with him and I enjoyed training against him because it was comfortable for me! As a man, I liked him.
When he became Cardiff manager, I spoke to him, but he said he had no money. He wanted me, but he needed like another eight or nine players. I told him to concentrate on those players first, go and get your team and we’ll see where we are towards the end of the transfer window. We were always in contact.