I am not sure if it is the first game I went to, but my earliest memory is the 1990 FA Cup final between Manchester United and Crystal Palace. My dad took me down to Wembley, and we used to go to Old Trafford, too, in those days. It was the day which saved Fergie’s United career, or so the story goes. We saw some great games – the match when Steve Bruce scored two headers against Sheffield Wednesday to win the Premier League for the first time sticks out. I signed for Everton as a young lad, so I started going there as soon as that happened.
Mark Hughes was probably my hero, but I really liked a host of strikers from that time. Ian Wright was a big one – he was a great finisher – and Eric Cantona. Alan Shearer came a little bit later, too. Hughes was a great scorer. I will never forget his distinctive volleys. He could strike a hell of a ball and was an aggressive guy. I liked him a lot.
My dad always used to get me a pair of Puma Kings. They were the old black and white ones. The softer the leather the better for me. I had some Umbro ones, too, but I always preferred Puma Kings.
I remember wearing the Italia 90 England kit on holiday. My parents went to Rome not long after and brought me back the Italy shirt from that tournament, with Salvatore Schillaci on the back! I always had the latest England shirt when I was a kid. I had a couple of Manchester United ones as well. I remember the yellow and green one from when I was small. But the England ones stand out.
My first ever game was for Everton against Crystal Palace in the League Cup at Goodison Park in 2001. It went to sudden death in the penalty shoot-out and I remember Dougie Freedman had a chance to win it for Palace. If he missed, I was taking one. I was on the halfway line half-hoping he would score, which he did. I was petrified! Walter Smith was the manager then and I don’t remember much about it. It was late in extra time when I came on.
It came later that season, in April 2002 against Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League at Goodison Park. I remember it like it was yesterday. We defended a corner in one of David Moyes’ first games and we broke quickly. Tomasz Radzinksi went round the keeper and squared it. Most people would say it was an empty net but it was 18 yards out and was quite daunting! It was an amazing moment. I got three goals that month and, after a tough season, we were really good under Moyes.
First red card?
I had a successful spell at Millwall when they went to the FA Cup final in 2004, but a few years later I was back playing against them with Hereford. Both they and I were struggling and I got booked twice at The Den, much to the home fans’ delight! I generally kept my nose clean, other than that.