By Chris Dunlavy
DREADLOCKED, daring and deadly, Danny Cadamarteri was just 17 when he gatecrashed the Premier League, scoring a slew of spectacular goals for Everton and putting rivals Liverpool to the sword.
Yet, while comparisons with Michael Owen fell wide of the mark, he certainly made the most of his 18 years in the game.
From the 92 appearances at Everton to glory at Huddersfield and Dundee United, Cadamarteri is remembered as a tireless grafter whose eye for the spectacular lit up many a dull afternoon.
Now 36 and an U18 coach at Sheffield Wednesday, the Bradford-born forward recalls those early days at Goodison, pranks with Paul Gascoigne, which defender stepped straight out of Street Fighter – and the perils of slugging back Day Nurse.
Everton. I was playing for Bradford Schoolboys in a district game and a scout was there. They’d actually come to watch a friend of mine but I stood out.
I was a schoolboy, then a YTS. I was 17 when I made my debut, on the last day of the 1996-97 season against Chelsea. Joe Royle had been sacked about a week or so before and they put our captain Dave Watson in charge. It was he who gave me the nod.
Probably Howard Kendall. He was different to most of the others I’ve had. Walter Smith was very tactical, as was Craig Levein at Dundee United. Their focus was on preparing for matches.
Howard was more about making sure the togetherness and team-spirit was right. He wanted everyone to have involvement. There were no cliques or outsiders. He believed that, if you got that right, everything else would follow.
It was fantastic for me. I was a young lad in my first season as a regular in the first-team and the environment meant I was instantly made part of things.
Wow. How long have you got? I’ve been very fortunate to play with some top, top players. I can narrow it down to a top five.
Mark Hughes came to Everton late in his career but he still had incredible strength and technique. Marco Materazzi was a brilliant defender who won the World Cup with Italy. David Ginola had ridiculous ability. Steven Gerrard was a team-mate for England U16s.
And Paul Gascoigne has to be in there. It sounds strange but he was actually a great role model for a young lad.
On the training field and on match days, he was 100 per cent professional, totally focused and committed. He just loved playing football and that attitude rubbed off on everybody.
With Huddersfield Town from League One to the Championship. It must have been 2011-12, under Simon Grayson. He’d taken over from Lee Clark midway through the season.
We’d failed at the final hurdle the season before, losing to Peterborough in the play-off final at Old Trafford. The year before that – when I was at Dundee – we’d lost in the semis to Millwall. It was a massive relief to finally do it.
It was a very decent team. We were big and strong, we had Jordan Rhodes scoring goals for fun and we had a great spirit, for which Lee has to take credit.
Another tough one. Gazza would obviously be in there. Don Hutchinson was a wild one. But Thomas Gravesen, the Danish midfielder at Everton, was an absolute crackpot.
Jokes, pranks, everything. He once went to Chinatown and bought what he thought was a standard firecracker. He brought it into training for a laugh and ended up blowing a massive crater in the training pitch. The thing was like a bomb!
He was a wacky guy. We had lads turning up in Lamborghinis, Porsches, Ferraris. Thomas, who was a big bloke, went out and bought himself a Nissan Micra, just for fun.
The lads couldn’t believe it when he went to Real Madrid. Nobody doubted he had terrific ability, but we just didn’t believe he could stay sensible for long enough not to get kicked out.
Thomas blowing a hole in the pitch is definitely up there. But I’d probably say the time I pranked Gazza.
We were constantly at each other and we’d had a bit of a feud where we were cutting holes in each other’s gear. Toes off socks, bottoms out of shorts – all sorts.
One day, I got hold of his brand new Armani suit and put it on the roof his car. He had this Mercedes convertible with a blue canvas roof.
I taped the suit down, then used deodorant to draw a head, hands and legs. It was pretty funny at the time but, when Gazza took it to the carwash, they didn’t come off.
He ended up driving around with a matchstick man on his car for months. He had to buy a new roof eventually, but he deserved it for everything he did to me!
Either promotion with Huddersfield or winning the Scottish Cup at Dundee United in 2010. I’d had an offer to go to Hibs many years before but didn’t want to move so far from home.
It had always nagged at me, especially when the Old Firm games were on. I kept wondering if I’d made a mistake.
So, when Craig Levein called, I was really interested. He sat me down and sold the dream. A chance to split the Old Firm, to get into Europe and maybe even the Champions League. I think he did mention a cup as well.
When you played Celtic, Rangers and Hearts, it was like top-end Championship. Lower down – though it was still tough – it was more like League One.
Personally, it was great. We finished third, qualified for the Europa League and capped it by beating Ross County in the Cup so I achieved everything I wanted.
Being banned for six months for a doping offence while at Bradford in 2006. I’d taken Day Nurse for flu without realising it contained a stimulant called ephedrine.
We were playing in the evening against Millwall, so I went to the chemist. I was weighing up Night Nurse or Day Nurse, but Day Nurse was advertised as non-drowsy so I went with that.
I got urine tested after the game and the initial charge was using a performance-enhancing substance. The legal threshold is 25 micrograms – that’s what your body carries naturally – but, for something to be classed as performanc-enhancing, you needed something like 1,500 mcg. When they did a B-test, mine had only 50 mcg in it. Instead of getting a two-year ban, I got six months for gross negligence. It was devastating.
Toughest place to go
St James’ Park, Newcastle. People always talk about Man United and Liverpool but I’ve always thought the atmosphere was more intense at Newcastle. Mind you, that was in the days before they extended the stadium and players like David Ginola and Faustino Asprilla were going for the title.
Jaap Stam at Man United. He had no weaknesses. He was incredibly strong, incredibly fast. He read the game as well as anybody. Technically, his touch and passing were great. There was no way round him. To a young lad, he was physically very intimidating. For some reason, he used to remind me of Sagat, the big bloke with the scar out of Street Fighter 2!
Favourite place to go
It’s not there any more, but I used to love playing at Highbury. I was an Arsenal fan, so it was the place I’d grown up dreaming of playing.
The atmosphere wasn’t a patch on St James’, but it was a nice place to play football. It was tight, the fans were close. The pitch level was a little bit raised, which gave it a more traditional feel. The surface was superb.
It wasn’t a massively extravagant stadium with all mod cons and thousands of fans but, for a player, it felt great to walk out there.
I want to be a successful coach, though at what level I don’t know. I’m still learning at the moment.
I’ve got my own private academy. We’ve got kids from U5s to U18s and, ideally, I’d like to see that grow. I’m not at a stage where I’ve got a career path mapped out.
*This article was originally featured in The FLP on Sunday 21st August.