“I played for Liverpool, who I supported as a boy and I always wanted to represent my country. I always wanted to play for Celtic and taste the Old Firm derby and Cardiff was the last tick. They were the teams I always wanted to play for.
I’m not a Cardiff fan, I’m from the area. I’ll always look out for Cardiff and my dad supports them, but most kids in the eighties grew up as a Liverpool or Manchester United fan. Was I supposed to support a team in the old fourth division?! You couldn’t even get their kit! Liverpool kits were everywhere and the number of fans in the area are huge.
In the era I grew up in, a lot of Cardiff supporters had another team. Now there are Cardiff fans that have watched them in the Premier League and in cup finals, so they’re easier to support now. I watched Cardiff against Blackpool in the play-off final and it was heart breaking, but Blackpool deserved it on the day.
Being in Cardiff at the time, everyone was just so deflated and I felt like that as well. I just thought to myself, imagine being in the first group of players to get promoted, but I didn’t think it would happen then because I had just come off the back of a decent season at Manchester City.
I always wanted to play for Cardiff, but I didn’t know when. I always thought as a kid that it would be at the start, but it wasn’t possible with their youth development programme at the time. I trained with them for about a year at an indoor facility in Trelai with boys a year or two older, but there were no games and no programme, so you had better opportunities elsewhere. I went to Norwich and it was like a different world. Playing Leeds United, going on tours to Scandinavia and Spain.
I went into pre-season with Manchester City and Spurs were trying to get me. Roberto Mancini had the opportunity to bring in loads of other players and had a lot of money to spend. I knew he wanted Edin Dzeko and I was going to be one of the players that would fall by the wayside.
Steve McClaren was at Wolfsburg and they wanted me to go in the other direction in the Dzeko deal, so I spoke to Steve and I’ve always been interested in going away. They had won the league the year before so would be playing in the Champions League, but being a makeweight, that wasn’t going to happen. You’re not getting me as part of a deal.
Then I could have been part of the deal with Valencia to sign David Silva and I look back now and wonder ‘what was I thinking?!’ I could have gone to Valencia and had a nice way of life, but I was stubborn.
I was holding out for Spurs and I was training non-stop, two sessions a day, which is not great for my knee, but its not great for footballers full stop. My knee swelled up and I came back home. Garry Cook called me to ask where I was and when I told him Cardiff, he said ‘well what about Cardiff?’
I said that they couldn’t pay my wages and he said that Manchester City would pay my wages and if Cardiff got promoted, they could sort out some sort of deal where they could pay some back.
They were just trying to find a solution for me to be happy because Garry said I had been brilliant for them, so he wanted to do right by you, but they didn’t want to sell me to a rival. Cardiff couldn’t believe their luck and it was something I always wanted to do.”