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4 September 2015

We took a break from the blog last week, due to the tragic events at Shoreham Air Show, which saw Albion employee Matt Grimstone, Albion fan Jacob Schilt and nine others tragically killed in the disaster.

I cannot express my sadness to hear that 11 people had been killed and I was shocked to hear that two young men connected with the club. My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected.

Recently we covered what it is like to join a new club, but this week we take a look at what it takes to grow up in football.

Most football fans, whether Manchester United supporters or not, have seen the documentary Class of 92. In the film the players discuss how they were treated as scholars and how they dealt with criticism, especially players like David Beckham and Phil Neville who felt it on a national scale.

In my early days at Brighton I was put up for sale on ebay by a fan. I was actually fine when I saw it but the other lads felt for me as they didn't know my character at the time, but it didn't bother me - especially, as it was not even an original idea, and it was copied from someone else who'd already done it elsewhere!

I was always confident in my own ability and when fit I knew I'd be able to compete with anyone at that level. When I did return to full fitness I went on to win Player of the Season and help the club win promotion via the play-offs.

The ebay gag didn't go down too well with the other players at the club, they thought it was a low thing to do - so none of the lads used it against me or took the mickey out of me about it, which shows you what they thought of it considering some of the things I have heard in that dressing room!

I think most players have all been in a situation where they're playing catch-up with their fitness, so they all understood the situation, and didn't like someone making light of it.

I now know who did it, but at the time it was water off a duck's back for me. I grew up in the youth team at Spurs where even if you scored two goals and won 3-0 the manager would hammer us for missing a header.


To have that from an early age toughened me up, and it reminded me of it when I saw the likes of Beckham, the Nevilles, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs speaking about in Class of 92.

When I was at Spurs the youth team had to wear smart trousers and shirts into training, we had to put out the bibs and cones for the first-team, and we had to clean players' boots.

At Spurs you would clean them and the pros would throw them back at you saying "They're not good enough." You went back until they had a big shine on them, and even then they'd say "That's alright".

That instilled a real work ethic into young players. It kept us grounded. All those early experiences prepared me for how to cope with being a footballer, because you do come in for a lot of criticism, but at the same time people want to speak to you and meet you and you have to be able to handle that and be respectful to others.

I remember David Pleat had just taken over as manager but his assistant Trevor Hartley got all the players together: the youngsters and first team, and told us what was expected of us.

As one of the young players sitting on the floor at the front, he pointed to me and ordered, "You, stand up" and he just slapped me round the face. It was proper full on and left a red mark, "Good," he said. "You didn't retaliate!" Everyone else was rolling about and I just sat back down.

It was a tough environment at Spurs, but I think the feeling was if you could handle that type of environment then you could handle 45,000 screaming at you away at Arsenal in a local derby, where there is nowhere to hide.

I won't be here next week as I have packed my budgie smugglers and am off on holiday with the family. I will be sunning myself on the beach, which in previous years has been a bit of a pain, as Greenpeace volunteers turn up and keep trying to roll me back into the sea!








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