Peter. I thoroughly enjoyed your book.
Oh, good. I wanted it to be a bit different to other football autobiographies. Each chapter’s a subject: ‘haircuts’, for instance.
It’s really refreshing to read.
Yeah yeah. But also insightful.
In it, you debunk an infamous story about you and some cinema nachos. What’s your cinema etiquette?
To be fair, I go for it. I get the lot: popcorn, a massive drink, nachos, sweets. I seem to be eating the whole way through the film. You don’t want to be sitting too near me, I don’t think.
At one point in the book, you say: “Why didn’t I just go and become a postman?” What were the alternative career options for you?
My dad was in advertising. I did my work experience at his ad agency in London. He was the creative director and basically just came up with adverts. I’d have probably followed in his footsteps, but sport was what I loved doing.
Did you ever feel self-conscious about your height when you were young?
Yeah, without a doubt. I was different, and still am. The way I shielded it was just by being open and having a laugh about it. People take the piss out of you because they want it to affect you. But I’d already done that, so the elephant in the room was gone – or the giraffe in the room.
One of my favourite stories in the book is the one about the Prada jumper. Could you relive that ordeal for the readers?
I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, especially with clothes. Before I met [my wife] Abbey, I was pretty useless. I walked into a shop – Harrods or something – and spotted a jumper. And it was awful really, looking back. The sleeves fit – that’s why it drew my attention – but it was this cream felty-velvet with cotton arms. I got to the till and I was thinking, “80 quid, maybe.” It was £800. I bought it anyway and hated it from that moment. I decided to wear it to the pub and spilled Guinness all down it. Ruined.
Where is it now?
God knows. I didn’t even try to clean it. I just launched it into the bin.
Do you think that footballers have unusually bad taste?
That’s usually what happens. That’s why writing this book was an enjoyable experience. I feel like I’ve seen things no one has seen. If you worked in a bank, you wouldn’t see this kind of stuff. Football brings so many characters from all over the world, and a lot of money to be able to afford things that you wouldn’t normally buy: Jelle Van Damme was at Southampton and he bought a Hummer. We lived in the same apartment block and he couldn’t get it in the car park, so he’d park a mile away and walk. Why would you do that? You’ve walked most of the way.
You’re an expert on Twitter. How would you advise fellow professional footballers use it?
I was bored stiff of hearing the generic “The fans were fantastic today. We worked hard. We’ll do better next time.” I thought, “Right, I’m gonna get on this and have a laugh.” I’ll have a look at what’s going on and then, if something takes my fancy, I’ll just fire in on it.
Can you see yourself becoming a manager?
I’ve got my A licence now, which qualifies me to do coaching. It’s scary, I left school at 16 to play and that’s what I’ve done for the past 21 years. I feel like now, I’m holding onto it more than ever. But the moment I start becoming a hindrance, that’s when I’ll retire.
And move into advertising?
Probably, yeah. The day I retire, I don’t want to go backpacking for two years. I’d rather go straight into a job and crack on.
How To Be A Footballer is out now, £20 (Ebury Press)