You are currently manager of Scunthorpe United. Having played for the club how are you enjoying managing the Scunthorpe United and what do you view as the challenges of managing the club?
At the moment it is really enjoyable. Obviously we are only four games in and we have 4 points and we played both home and away. I think the difficult point that I am having at the moment is being a local boy back into the area everybody seems to want a little piece of me and my main job really is to sort the football team out. Even through in the Covid times I am still being asked to do many things and I knew that would be a part of it and I am also trying local companies and business back supporting this football club.
You played three seasons for Middlesbrough FC. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any highlights or memories?
My first two and a half years were absolutely superb, Middlesbrough are a great club to play for and I had a great manager, Chairman and a great bunch of lads and we got promoted in my first and we moved to the Riverside Stadium in my second season and we also stayed up in the Premier League.
In my third season we went to both domestic up finals and got relegated as well as suffering a points deduction and the end of my first season was disappointing because we had worked so hard as a club, players and staff to get where the club wanted to be. I felt that we had failed in my final six months at the club.
The positives in that we had such a great team spirit and in my first season at the club only one team went up and another through the play-offs and was leaving Ayresome Park Park to go to a new stadium so we were under mounting pressure and the football club had spent a lot of money. I was the club’s first one million pound signing as a right back.
They also brought Jan Åge Fjørtoft, Nigel Perason and Clayton Blackmore in who were big names and our plan was to get promoted in our first season under Bryan Robson and that is what we did. I think that was our biggest achievement winning the Championship that season.
You played six seasons for Watford FC. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any special memories and highlights?
I had a great five years at Watford FC and I worked under some great managers such as Graham Taylor, Gianluca Vialli and Ray Lewington.
I spent six years at the club and in the first year the club wanted me out due to me not fitting into their system after signing me to after that captaining the club for a number of seasons and helping that club get over serious financial issues by getting players to take pay deferrals and with an average side that Ray Lewington put together we all dug in together and we managed to get to two domestic cup semi-finals that season getting beat by Southampton FC and Liverpool FC respectively and we managed to get the club out of debt and the boys to get paid back was a big achievement for the football club.
You touched on the team spirit and your former teammates, When you look back on your career could you say who were among the best players you played alongside?
I played alongside a number of good players. When I went to Aston Villa I played with Paul McGrath and he was an excellent player. I was at Aston Villa for four years and Paul probably only trained twice in those four years because he had a lot of knee problems and others issues but every time that he played he was the best player on the pitch and I think when you look at everyone that played with Paul everybody that I know he is always in their best eleven so that is always a good sign.
I played with Bryan Robson, Captain Marvel at Middlesbrough who captained Manchester United and England and even though he was 36 when he arrived at the club he was still an unbelievable and world class footballer at the time. I also played with Juninho Paulista who was a superstar and he is still a superstar in the Middlesbrough area for what he did for that football club and the way in which he handled himself both on and off the pitch. It was superb.
I was also fortunate to play with Filippo Galli for a short period of time at Watford FC. We formed a 20 game centre half partnership but Filippo played 13 years for AC Milan, won the European Cup and played alongside Franco Baresi and just his character and leadership were really strong when we played together.
You played under some very good managers. When you embarked on football management did you receive any particular advice or encouragement from managers before you started your own managerial journey?
I was assistant manager to Neal Ardley and he did an unbelievable job for AFC Wimbledon. A fantastic job keeping that club up in that first year which help from his staff and players which he has always said and to keep them up after getting promoted and I learned a lot from him and we learned together and when I told him I am leaving Notts County to come to Scunthorpe United he told me just be yourself you have done a good job as assistant and just be yourself as a manager and take on board.
I have a lot of friends in football that are managers and they said the same to me to get focused on what you want to do not what other people have done or other managers that you have worked with you have to be yourself with your own character and how you want to play and you dictate to the players what you want. If you want to be the hard faced manager who screams and shouts you be that. If you want to be one of those managers who wants to get on people’s side and have a laugh and a joke that is what you have to be but you have to find the right way that is best for you and that is what most people have told me.
Finally Neil. You are still a very young manager. Looking towards the future in your managerial career is there anything that you would ideally like to achieve in your managerial career in future in terms of goals and ambitions?
I think the main thing is that I have always wanted to manage Scunthorpe United, this is my hometown club. I used to live next door to the Old Show Ground and my parents now live next door to the current The Sands Venue Stadium so this will always be the club that is in my heart and I wanted to get them promoted and I want to win things and do well for the club.
In the future I would like to manage my old teams that I played for. I was fortunate and I believe that I did well for the clubs I played for and showed passion and heart and I would love to go on if I could to manage some of the clubs that I played for.