‘I’m at my worst on the football pitch – especially if I’m losing’

Worst thing about being a professional footballer? 

People only get to see one side of you. When I’m on the pitch I’m aggressive, I’m moody, I can be a bit arrogant. I’m going into battle, I want to win. But when I’m off the pitch, I’m a completely different person. Arguably, me on the pitch is me at my worst – especially if I’m losing. It’s hard when people judge me based only on that side of me. I think modern players are a lot better at expressing themselves than my generation was People are starting to understand what’s going on behind the mask a bit more, which is really positive. 

Worst day of your life so far? 

There was a day, right at the end of my football career when I had a doctor draining fluid out of my knee so I could get back on the pitch. He had advised me that it probably wouldn’t work and he had misgivings about the procedure, but I couldn’t give it up. My time was done, my body was saying no. I should have taken his advice and graciously known when it was time to bow out, but I couldn’t accept it was all over. All that I’d worked for was disappearing in front of me, and it was due to an injury rather than by my choice. I put a lot of pressure on my doctor to try to fix me and it haunts me to this day. 

Worst thing on your mind at the moment? 

My dad is quite unwell at the moment. Over the last three months, he’s been having some health problems. I keep feeling like I should be doing more to help him. He’s such a warrior, he has done so much for me. The way I live my life is from the lessons he taught me. I sometimes worry that I’ve neglected him and that is eating me up at the moment. I’ve become so engrossed in what I do, in trying to be the best I can. In my football career, I was doing so well but it ended badly. Now I’ve been given another chance in punditry and I don’t want to regret it again, but I sometimes worry I’m neglecting the person who made all of this possible. 

Worst experience on the pitch? 

I got injured in a match against Swansea. I went to kick the ball, and my knee locked. I knew at that moment that I was going to be out for a long, long time and it was going to be very difficult for me to get back to where I was. Manchester City were just about to become a major force in football, and I just had this sense that this injury would be the demise of my career, and I’d miss the team achieving those heights. 

Absolute worst?

Marmite and Bovril. I’d never had either of them before, but I did some filming the other day and tried them both for the first time. I have never experienced two more disgusting things in my life. I had to spit out the Bovril; I’ve never done that to any food since I was a baby. I don’t understand how people can like those things.

As told to Jack Rear

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