Outside of football, things weren’t much easier. I remember going to try and open a bank account one day after training. I didn’t speak great Italian and they didn’t speak English. These days, players have help to do all that stuff, but at Juventus I had to do everything myself.
There’s no doubt that going abroad was good for me, though. To tell you the truth, it made me a better player.
I went to Juventus as a boy and came back a man.
But nothing could have prepared me for what happened at Hillsborough the year after I went back to Liverpool. We could see what was happening that day. It’s something none of us will ever forget.
We all love the game, but football becomes second to anything then, you know?
What I came to realise, though, was that the game could still be a way for us to help the supporters. People say that scoring in front of the Kop is an unbelievable experience, and that’s true. But after Hillsborough it was really something else to see their faces – the smiles – when you scored a goal.
To see them happy and feel like you’ve given them something back… that’s what helped me to carry on.
“It taught me how important it is as a manager to have a good relationship with your chairman”
I love football – it’s my life – so when I got to the point where my legs were telling me I couldn’t play any more, I knew I had to find a way to stay involved.
I was playing for Wrexham and not really enjoying it when the reserve team manager there, Joey Jones, took me along to a training session.
I’m standing there, telling players: “Do this, do that.”
Joe says: “Slow down. These people can’t do that. You have to teach them how to do it.”
I’d always done those things automatically. I thought everyone could.
People seemed surprised to see me go into coaching. I remember being on my first course in Aberystwyth. We were staying in student digs and, when I walked in, the other coaches looked at me and asked: “What are you doing here?”
“Same as you. I’m here to learn.”
You realise that you’re starting all over again – that you’ve got to go all the way down before you can come all the way back up. And it’s only as you’re coming back up that you get more confident in what you’re doing.
I did all that as a player. I needed to do the same as a coach.