Firstly, Graeme, when I was living in Mallorca in 1996 I met you in Deia, Mallorca, when you had a plaster cast on following your broken ankle. It was during Euro 96 – which you missed through the ankle break – and you were on holiday. You were politeness personified, and chatted with me for a short while. Can I extend my thanks to you as I still remember it clearly. Thanks. I won’t be so stupid as to ask if you remember me, lol.
Brilliant. It’s amazing how you can go back that far, to 1996, and people still remember that. I guess that’s part of the understanding of the position you have, people do take on board what you say. I think that’s what’s part of being a good professional, giving people time – this makes a huge difference.
You were at Chelsea from 1987 until 2003 (Blackburn notwithstanding). Can you tell us the biggest change that you witnessed as a player at the Club? Was it the stadium, mentality, players???
I suppose the biggest change between the Chelsea that I left and the Chelsea I came back to, so from 93-97 when I was at Blackburn was personnel, so the players that were at Chelsea when I came back; Gianfranco, Roberto, Frank Leboef, obviously Wisey was still there, Vialli, Gullit. The revolution that the club underwent was really already under way when I came back and that reflected in the style of play, style of football and the success that we had. Although we didn’t have the same success as the guys do now, I certainly think we created an image and impression on people that the fans really related to. You can see that now with how popular our generation are with the fans when they come back – Dan Petrescu, Gus Poyet, Tore Andre Flo for instance, all of us really. We endeared ourselves to the supporters because of how we were and how we played, there was a fantastic atmosphere.
You left just as Roman joined. Did you wish you had played during the Roman era?
Yes. I think we passed on the revolving door at Stamford Bridge, I was on my way out as he was on his way in. He had only just bought the club. I was getting older, so was Gianfranco , we were in the same position contractually, but the club during that transition didn’t see it as in their interests to keep either of us. It was disappointing at the time. I was looking for another 2 years so I wanted to secure my future in top flight football as I knew that after that I would probably retire. And I wanted to finish my career at the club. That’s when you realize that football is business. So yeah, it was a shame, I’d love to have been 10 years younger 1) To train here at Cobham everyday, the facilties are fantastic compared to Harlington and secondly with how far the club has come with the players we’ve had and the success. I don’t tend to look back and say what if this, what if that, I’m just really grateful that I could come back to the club for a second spell to finish what I’d started.
Who was your favourite Chelsea team mate and why? (not best player, but favourite team mate).
The great thing about that second spell for me was that the dressing room was very tight. Great characters – Gus Poyet, Dennis etc. The standout character though was Gianfranco. He was such a nice guy, a great role model, very polite and always had time for people. It’s hard to single one person out though as we had such a good group. It’s great to catch up with the guys as we’re still all good mates.
If you had one Chelsea game to remember, what would it be?
I suppose in a way probably my last game for the club, but one of the best games was Ranieri’s first game in charge when we played Manchester United up at Old Trafford and drew 3 all. I cleared one off the line from Andy Cole, set up a couple of goals, was up against David Beckham who was in fantastic form – probably the best form of his career. We really took the game to them and showed incredible character in that game.