He joined his boyhood club Ipswich Town in 2012, and Watford Legends spoke to him shortly after his move.
It was Aidy Boothroyd that signed you for Watford when you were just a young lad, how did the move all come about?
I don’t really know to be honest. I’d been playing a few reserve games for Lincoln and I was playing OK and I think one game it was just about having the right people there at the right time. Watford had obviously seen some of those games and saw enough to offer me a week’s trial. I kept three clean sheets in a week for the youth team and reserves and I obviously impressed them enough as it went from there. It was a bit out of the blue but it was a good opportunity and I took it.
As a young lad taking a big step up, how did you find working for Aidy Boothroyd?
Brilliant – I thought he was amazing. I know that a few people have several different opinions on him but I rate the guy very highly and really enjoyed working for him. He’s a top bloke.
You made your way up through the youth team and reserves and then when the chance finally came for you to make your debut you went down in history by conceding a goal that wasn’t a goal – now more commonly known as the ghost goal!
Yes it was amazing. I’m sure it will continue to feature on quiz shows etc. for many years to come so it will always be a memorable one that the first goal I conceded wasn’t a goal! It was mixed emotions but if I am being honest I wasn’t too bothered about that – I was more bothered about making my debut in the Championship.
Do you remember it clearly? I remember the incident well, I remember you putting the ball down for a goal kick and the ref whistling at you – and your initial reaction was to shrug your shoulders as if to say “what’s the problem?”
I’m not one for getting on at referees as they have to give what they give and you can’t change that but to this day I don’t have any idea what him or the linesman saw that day. If the linesman gave it because it went over the goal line then surely the ref would be in a position to see it was nowhere near the frame of the goal but he has been known for a number of errors now and that one certainly doesn’t look good on him either. I still think about it when I’m asked about it and I can never get my head around what he even thought he could see that day.
Following your debut you then went on to enjoy a good run of games, are there any in particular that stand out for you?
That’s a tough question. I don’t really remember particular games but more periods of games that we went through. For example, when we had a team with Danny Graham, Tom Cleverley and Henri Lansbury in it, amongst others, we had some really exciting times and turned in some great performances.
I enjoyed my whole time there though, obviously you have your up and your downs and some of the fans weren’t behind we towards the end of my time but that happens to hundreds of players through their career and is just part of it I’m afraid. Overall though I can’t pick a particular moment at Watford I enjoyed over the rest – I enjoyed it all to be honest.
You mentioned the fans there and I know in your official ‘goodbye’ interview with the club you mentioned it as well. I think it’s well documented that there were difficulties between you and a section of the fans towards the end both in person and on Twitter. Why do you think the fans turned the way they did?
It’s a tough one to answer, maybe a few reasons. They had a brilliant goalkeeper in Ben Foster who was the keeper before me and his talent speaks for itself. Then there is Richard Lee who is a local legend around Watford and a great guy as well. Obviously Alec is involved as well and held in high regard by the fans, so maybe they have an idea of what a goalkeeper should offer and I never matched up to their expectations – I’m not really sure though to be honest. Fans are fans and at the end of the day it’s entirely up to them what they think.
My main thought isn’t about the fans though – apologies if that sounds horrible – it is about impressing the manager. Including Dyche I had played under four managers so I know in my heart I was doing something right. The fans might question that and say I wasn’t getting it right but at the end of the day it isn’t up to them, it’s up to the manager at the time and four of them saw enough in me to play me.
You mentioned Alec Chamberlain just now, how did you enjoy working under his coaching guidance?
He’s brilliant, Chambo has got me to where I am so I have nothing but respect and admiration for the guy. He was a great keeper who had a great career. If I could match his career, play until I am 40 and play as many games as he did then I will be a very happy man.
You played under a few managers at Watford, if we were to put you on the spot and ask you to pick a favourite then who would it be?
They’re all different in what they offered to be honest. Boothroyd was really different and he was the man who gave me my chance. Brendan was great and I could see exactly what he was trying to implement in his coaching and I thought he was great. Training was always exciting under him and the players enjoyed it. I’ve got to say though that Malky was spot on and had a bit of everything. He obviously came through the coaching route and took different ideas from the people he worked with and implemented them in his own way so he was great. Dyche I didn’t work with for a huge amount of time but we had a good season.
They are four very different managers with different ideas of the game. I think you will see Aidy managing at a higher level before long and it’s no surprise to see Brendan and Malky in high profile jobs and doing well.
Were you surprised to see Dyche go?
I was and I wasn’t. He had a good season on a limited budget but he got us going and we weren’t that far from the play offs so he did a great job. But equally Italians have their own ideas on how they will want things to work and will want to have their own men in charge. I think we all knew in the back of our minds that he was going to go but until it actually happened we just had to carry on as normal.
You picked up a few England U21 caps whilst a Watford player – that must be a highlight?
Yes it’s been the best moment of my career so far. I think people forget I played a few times for England U21’s. It wasn’t just once or twice – I played 14 times. That’ll stay with me for the rest of my life as it was a huge honour.
You left Watford this summer to move to Ipswich. Did you have a chat with Zola or had you already decided to leave?
It was time for me to move on, without a doubt. It got to the point where I feel I had gone as far as I could with Watford really. It had gone a bit stale, the fans were getting frustrated and I was getting frustrated so it was time for a fresh start. I don’t think you ever lose your ability but you need to go and kick on somewhere else. Ipswich was my boyhood team as well so it all stacked up.
As well as being your boyhood team it is still a living for you; does Ipswich being your boyhood team make a huge impact on your decision?
It’s definitely a key factor. I’ve always wanted to play here so their interested really did flatter me but everything needs to be right for the move. I couldn’t just sign for Ipswich on the basis I support them, everything else has got to be right as well but at the end of the day I do still need to make a living as well like you said. At 24 my mind is set on playing games more than anything else.
I’ve played a lot of games already but over the next four years I want to double that number so that by the time I am 28 I have a lot more experience and maybe then I will think more about stepping up a level or looking at my salary – but for now it is all about playing games and getting better. Experience is key and it can’t be bought.
Whilst you were at Watford were there ever any other clubs in for you?
I don’t really know to be honest. I didn’t even know Ipswich had been looking at me until I got a call on the day of the Borehamwood game to say there was interest and then I got a call telling me to be ready as it was going to happen. It was all a bit new to me because, as a pro, I had never moved clubs before so I didn’t know how it all worked.
You had been at Watford for nigh on six years and from being a young lad, how have you settled into life over at Ipswich now?
Well I’m a Nottingham lad anyway so I was already used to being away from home but I was fortunate enough to be in my own place where people could come and visit me and it’s no different with Ipswich as well to be honest so it’s not much upheaval.
You played at L*ton in pre-season – did they give you much stick for your Watford connections?!
No not really. I only played the first half and I had Ipswich fans behind me so it might have been a bit different if I played the second half. I got a bit of stick but I’ve had worse!
By the luck of the fixture list you will be coming back to Watford with Ipswich early on in the season. How will you find that?
I’m looking forward to it but I’m sure I will get a few boos and jeers! In all seriousness Watford was a great place for me and I really enjoyed it so I’m looking forward to going back. I’ve got some good friends there and if it wasn’t for Watford in the first place then I wouldn’t have got this move so I will always be grateful to people at the club. For one night I will be hoping Watford won’t take the three points though!
Quick Fire Round
|Favourite Ground (apart from the Vic)|
|Best Ever Player|
|Team you supported as a boy|
|Amaretto & Coke|
|Anything chart based|
|Favourite Holiday Destination|
|Favourite TV Show|
|Never happier than when|
|I'm at home with my pals, or beating my mate Warren at Fifa|
|Desert Island Woman|