From an early age, I was passionate about playing football. I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunities and support to help me along the way, but I know this is not the case for everybody.
After representing Kingston Borough and Surrey I was scouted by Millwall FC and successfully followed the academy system pathway making my debut in 1998 aged 17. I went on to make 167 appearances, which included a promotion and playing at Wembley.
During this time I also represented the Republic of Ireland and the highlight of my career, playing in the 2002 World Cup. I went on to represent the national team 23 times, scoring twice.
In 2003 I joined Blackburn Rovers FC where I remained for the following seven years, experiencing massive highs and horrendous lows in my career. During this time I endured many challenges as a result of injury which affected me not only physically, but mentally.
Moving away from home was not easy, nor was settling in to a Premier League club but these difficulties were simply compounded when my injury issues started. Just as I had enjoyed my best ever season as a player I suffered an ACL rupture followed by a chondral defect which caused me to miss much of my last 3 years at the club. I enlisted the help of sports psychologists including Steve Peters, Damian Hughes and Neil Roache to assist me in trying to get back to my best. However it would become clear that I would have to manage my body for the remainder of my career.
After leaving Blackburn in 2010, I signed for West Bromwich Albion on a free transfer and had a very successful 4 years, going on to make nearly 100 appearances and helping to establish them in the Premier league. This again was a testing time with constant injury, managing my body and the uncertainty of 1 year deals.
I left West Bromwich Albion in 2014 and had a year in the Premier league with Burnley before deciding to end my playing career in 2015.
After retiring from playing I started my full time coaching career at Reading FC alongside Steve Clarke. After spending two years at Reading and nearly getting promotion to the Premier league I joined Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace where I spent a year helping the club to avoid relegation.
During the summer of 2018 I decided to take a break from football and reassess the direction I was to take going forward and spend some quality time with the family, which I felt had suffered during much of my playing and coaching career to date.
A couple of brief spells coaching at AFC Wimbledon and a return to West Bromwich Albion followed before becoming Assistant Head Coach with the Senior Men’s Scotland National Team in June 2019 which I am still really enjoying.
As the Scotland role leaves a lot of time in between games, I decided to take the first step to becoming a qualified counsellor by taking the CPCAB Level 2 in Counselling Skills course with the PFA. I know personally how large a factor psychology plays in the football industry but also in life, so by learning these skills I can offer help off the field in the many challenges we all face day to day whether that be in football or not.
The journey has not been easy with many challenges along the way. I have been lucky to have had good support and opportunities from a young age to achieve my goals which is a key factor in establishing this coaching service, to help others try and achieve theirs but also offer support, guidance or just as a sounding board.