Australian midfielder Richard was signed from Spurs at youth level and went on to turn professional at Watford. He made his debut in 1991, and became a regular in the promoted sides between 1997 and 1999, gaining a reputation for scoring long range goals. He suffered a serious knee injury in the Premiership season in 1999-00 and didn’t play regularly in England again.
Regularly seen in the hospitality areas at Watford first team games, Richard spoke to Watford Legends while in Wellington in 2009.
Richard, you’re a big step for us as we close in on interviewing all of that team from ’99. How did you come over from Australia to become a Hornet?
I wrote letters to all the English clubs asking for trials. Only a couple of clubs replied and one of them was Tottenham. I was a Spurs fan as a kid so I jumped at the chance to go there. They had two youth teams at the time and when I got there, I was put in the ‘B’ team.
I was only due to stay for a couple of weeks but ended up staying for a couple of months. There was a mixed reaction from the bosses in the academy as to whether to keep me on. John Moncur was the youth director, and he phoned Steve Perryman and asked Steve to ask Ken Brooks to have a look at me. Kenny Jackett put me in the Under 16’s side to play away at West Ham. I did ok in that trial game and I finished my YTS there. After finishing I was given my first two year pro deal.
Obviously that’s a lot to deal with when so far away from home and so young. Where did you live?
I lived in digs in Bushey, Croxley, North Watford……everywhere! I cant remember in what order now! The first two years were tough, moving from family to family. But Watford had a great bunch of lads who became my friends – Gerard Lavin, Daniel Nwaokola and a few others. So it was made very easy for me. And it made it easier that the year above had some good blokes – Darren Bazeley and Big Shep (Simon Sheppard) to name a couple more. It was a great time.
Kenny Jackett was a very good father figure, it has to be said. Home sickness goes away a lot easier when you’re surrounded by good people.
You played a lot of games for the club, 240 plus in fact.
And I’m very proud of that. Being a lad from a small town in Australia, where there’s no more than 20,000 people, and to make it in the professional game in England…..I’m very proud of it. I probably could have played a few more if I didn’t get the bad luck with injuries.
Any games in particular stand out for you?
Blimey here we go! I think my debut away to Cambridge on Boxing Day. My parents came over from Australia. My main aim was to play professional football and it was that day that I did it.
And of course that special day at Wembley in 1999. Wembley is the most famous stadium in the world and it meant a lot to play there.
Was it as amazing as many of us would think to step out on to the hallowed turf?
Yes. I was a bit overawed really. It was an emotional day and I’m just glad that we managed to get the win.
One other game to remind you of was the game against Graham Taylor’s Wolves, and your last minute screamer.
Yes I remember that. It was his first return with another team wasn’t it? That goal won me goal of the season which was good. I remember my celebration was rubbish, I’ve never been good at celebrating!
Was that your best Watford goal?
No. For me it was the one at Bristol City. The ball got headed out and I volleyed it cleanly. That was my best goal.
Another goal was the one at Luton in the 4-0 demolition job.
I remember that one as well as it was one of the only goals I scored with my left foot! That was an amazing day. I remember Pete (Kennedy) got two. They are always a hot atmosphere and it was game over by half time. It was good to shut them up. I remember Dai Thomas got a right bollocking because he ran around like a nutter swinging his shirt around his head!
Always is! What was it like seeing the Luton fans leaving before half time?
Brilliant. A good day at the office! I was well aware of what the derby meant to Watford fans. It was drummed in to me from my first day!
You suffered a bad knee injury in the Premiership season against Man Utd.
Yeah I ruptured my lateral and cruciate ligaments. I’d only bloody come on as sub in the last five minutes as well. That was the start of the end for me really. I had an operation in Cambridge and unfortunately it was a bit of a bodge job. I played away at Colchester in preseason after a year out and it didn’t feel right.
I wish I’d gone earlier, but I went for a couple of second opinions, and the new cartilage put in my knee was in the wrong place. So I had to have another reconstruction. I’d wasted a year.
When you have such an injury, is it something you can feel when walking around in everyday life?
You can walk around without any problems and you don’t really feel anything. Its is when you twist and turn that you have a problem. Running in straight lines is fine, but when you try to turn the knee just gives way.
There were rumours, when you were in form pre injury, that Leeds were interested. Was that true?
Yes. My agent spoke with David O’Leary, but it never went further than that because of the injury. But that’s footy I suppose.
Was that team in 1999 the best you played in?
For me it was. I also enjoyed playing in the team that I broke through with. Names such as Hessy, Trevor Putney, Colin Foster, Jason Drysdale and so on.
But being in that midfield with Pete and Micah was pretty special. We were all quite close with each other so we, and the rest of the squad, all got on well. I think I’ve bought everyone in that squad a beer!
When was the last time you saw Watford play?
I can’t remember. Probably on the telly in the last time in the Prem. It was good to see them there.
You never seemed to settle in the other clubs you went to after Watford. Was that because of the knee?
I never really got back to the right level of fitness. I went around a few places and even went up to Scotland and Dundee Utd with Charlie Miller. But I couldn’t sign for them because of the transfer window. Gifton got me a short deal at Stoke with Tony Pulis. But I was travelling up from Watford which was a bit of a nightmare.
Then Kenny Jackett got in touch and asked if I’d like to go to QPR. They were pushing for promotion, and I played the rest of the season to get promotion. We got back in to the Championship the next year and I found I couldn’t really hold down a place.
I was getting a bit fed up and disillusioned with it all. Nobody really wanted to commit to me because of my knee. Then I got the opportunity to go to the new league in Australia. I made a couple of phone calls and I got the chance to join the team from where I was from in Australia, Newcastle Jets. So I got paid up by QPR and off I went.
The standard isn’t the same. Was it frustrating or was it good to be a good player in a lower standard of football?
No it didn’t matter. It was just nice to be back home and near a beach! The standard in Australia is getting better, and the players there are getting better. It’s just a little bit different.
You had a run in with the law over there.
I don’t want to talk about it mate, sorry. I’ve made a mistake and need to move on from it.
So what now?
Well the knee has called time on it all. It was hurting every day. I retired a few months ago, and I’ve taken a bit of time out to spend with my new son.
The boss of Wellington Phoenix, my last club, has asked if I would like to get involved with setting up some soccer schools for 9 – 12 year olds, and we are looking to start these in the next school holidays. We are then looking at opening a soccer academy next year.
The football is growing here and it’s a close knit city in Wellington and people get behind their sport.
Was it true that when the Watford fans shouted “Shoot!” that referees thought you were getting booed?!
Referees?! I thought I was getting booed?! I used to get really upset when they read out the teams I got booed?! It was a relief when someone pointed out that people were shouting at me to shoot!
Well good luck with the schools and enjoy the weather!
I will boys, good to talk with you. Give my regards to the Watford.
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