That was me. I was almost 11 years old and playing in a football team for the first time. That’s when I realised I was different to the other kids. I had attributes that they didn’t, because until then I’d had nobody in my ear telling me how to play football. I’d just been playing. Trying to create something.
I’d always been more into playing the game than watching it. My dad wasn’t a football fan, so as a kid I went to Chelsea with a friend and his dad. But I was still more interested in what I could make a ball do than watching others knock it around. I always have been. Ever since one of my first days at infant school, when I stood in the playground and watched this kid kick a ball up in the air, let it bounce and then sort of spin it on his head.
I spent the rest of that day trying to do the same thing. After that, I was never separated from a football. Bounce it against this wall. Keep it up. Volley it against that wall. That’s what interested me.
Until Italia ’90. That World Cup was the first time we sat down to watch football as a family, and it changed everything for me. I saw how football could bring people together. Not just my family, but the whole nation. I sat as close as I could to the TV watching Gazza play and thinking, I want to play for England.
More than that. I want to be at a World Cup playing for England.