I was fast, so I was always a striker. School team, Trafford Boys, Sale Boys, county teams, then Sunday League. I broke my leg when I was 19 or 20, missed a year, then when I came back I’d lost a bit of pace and had to reinvent myself as a left winger. I’d been at United for 12 years on the groundstaff when I started doing the kits, which meant my football took a back seat.
Once you join the kit department at this club, you’re in constantly and working every weekend, so I just didn’t have time to keep playing. I was turning up once every five weeks, which wasn’t fair on my team, so I had to just pack it in.
Until late July 1996.
I was with the Reserves for a pre-season friendly. The A and B team were both away playing games, the Reserves had a game and the first team had a game, all on the same day, so numbers were stretched to get teams out. We turned up at Prestatyn Town with 11 men. At the time we had Jim Ryan as manager, Rob Swire as physio and me – that was the staff on that trip. Us and the team.
Jim said to me:
“Just put a kit on. Just in case. We won’t need you, but just in case anybody gets injured.”
I was 29 at the time, so I was still fit enough to play, but after Jim said that, I was a nervous wreck all day. I put the kit on, put my tracksuit back on over it and I was sat on the bench. It didn’t help that it was a boiling hot day as well. I was absolutely roasting all game.
We had a lad called Ross Millard playing centre-half at the time and the previous year, he’d had a back operation which had been make-or-break for him. He’d had all sorts of issues with his lower back, so this was his comeback game and it was pretty much the last chance for him to prove to himself that the operation had been a success and he could start playing properly again.
Around 20 minutes from time, Ross signalled over to the bench.
His back had gone again.