International weeks are always a strange time for me as someone who represented both England and Scotland, and not many people can say that!
How did that happen? Well, everyone thought I was English. I guess because I’d lived in England for all but four years of my life and spoke with a Scouse accent! I played for England U21s and got a call-up for the game against Columbia when Rene Higuita saved that famous scorpion goal. The way Glenn Hoddle had spoken was that I would have played and made my debut, but I got eight stitches in my leg thanks to Dion Dublin during the build-up and was ruled out. It was great to be around players like Gazza, Merson, and Shearer because I was a young lad, and these were great players. I got called up for the B squad shortly after that for a couple of games. We got beat in Switzerland on my debut in a game that saw the like of Jamie Redknapp, Ray Parlour and Merse play. I didn’t get on in the second game we had, and it was pretty quickly after that, that the opportunity came around to play for Scotland…
I have to be honest and admit that deep down it was Scotland I really wanted to play for. I’d been caught up in it with England and playing in the age groups, but my dad was a huge Scotland fan and it was as much for him as me. Once I got in the Scotland squad I absolutely loved being around it. We just failed to qualify for Euro 2000, but being around the likes of Billy Dodds, Barry Ferguson, Neil McCann, who we called Terry, big Colin Hendrie, Matt Elliott, and Neil Sullivan was fantastic. It was a great set of lads. We liked a few beers and it was a great period for me personally. Injuries did hamper me a lot of the time sadly, and occasionally I maybe didn’t help myself.
I once got myself into trouble for missing training with Don Hutchison and Craig Brown gave us a right going over. We’d been to Cameron House in Loch Lomond and had a good few beers. The other lads had gone home for their families because it was a night off. Browny had said to me and Hutch that we should go out in Glasgow because we’d love it, but off we went to Loch Lomond and came back two days later! I’m blaming the manager for that one, he encouraged us and off we went!
Browny was such a great character and doesn’t get enough credit for what he did for Scotland when he was manager. We missed out on qualifying for the 2002 World Cup as well, but I went out to Japan anyway and had a great few weeks. I based myself in Tokyo but I was flying in and out of all the different places. I saw all the Leeds lads who were with Ireland, Robbie Keane was on fire in the games, and I saw Steve Staunton, one of my oldest mates in football. I think the Irish celebrated every day of the week while they were out there. They had such a fantastic support. I know the Scotland lads who’d been to France 98 had spoken of the Tartan Army and I wish I’d have been able to experience them at a tournament like the Irish lads did with their fans in Japan.
I also went to Sapporo for the England game and sat with Rio Ferdinand’s family. Danny Mills also played in that game. Even though we’d just missed out I had a great few weeks, going around Japan. I’d never eaten as many Big Macs in my life because the Japanese food was a bit tricky for me. I’ve still got a Robbie Fowler shirt and David Beckham shirt from the England games.
It was gutting that we couldn’t have got there ourselves, but I had said to a lot of the Scotland lads before that I was going to go even if we didn’t get there, and it was such an experience.
I look at Scotland’s results with pride these days, and it’s great to see that things appear to be looking. I so hope they can get back to where they belong, and give the Tartan Army the chance to take in another major tournament again, because they so deserve it.