Dad changed jobs once more so we moved back to England and settled in Billingham. Initially, I went to a Church of England School there, but didn’t like it much because the reading was all based around religion. In one lesson, a teacher showed us cards demonstrating jobs with pictures of a teacher and a policeman, things like that. We had to pick a job we would like to do when we grew up. I considered two pictures for a long time. One was of a binman and the other a wigged and gowned barrister. I chose the binman.
Marky and I switched to Wolverstone School when I was six years old. I loved it there and, despite being a quiet lad, made some good friends. Memories of the early days included playing with the indoor sandpit and the characters in my class. As time went on, I enjoyed Art and English more than the other subjects. Physically, I was slight and there was one sports day in which I finished outside the top three in every race. Marky, however, won all the races he entered and Mum took a photo. I stood with my face in an ice cream while Marky had one arm raised victoriously in the air with winner badges pinned to his chest.
But I could play football and was amongst the youngest who got selected for the school team. It was the first time I found out I could actually be good at something. In fact, we were quite successful. I played in every round and we got to the county cup final. In its one hundred year history, our school had never got that far before. I was driven to the final by a friend’s parents. We were nervous, but played hard in that game. I was in defence and some bigger friends were up front. However, we lost 2-1 and I came home with a runners-up medal.
When I was nine years old and Marky eleven, Dad got another job. We were going to live in the Spanish city of Huelva. With about six months’ notice of the move, we received some Spanish tuition. But all I wanted to do was have a laugh and play football with the mates I would be leaving behind. Soon enough, the summer was upon us and we left England on a warm day to arrive at the airport terminal in Spain. The sign outside said: ‘Welcome to Sunny Spain.’ I looked up and saw glistening raindrops fall.