The latest in a series of profiles and interviews, Orginal Fat Bob gives his personal view on the life and career of a footballing guest, before sitting down for a chat and asking a few questions. Our Diasboro special guest this week is Steve Vickers.
1. The Overview – the man and his career
Steve Vickers was born in 1967, but still looks fit enough to play football today. He cycles many miles with his neighbour, another former Boro player, David Hodgson and is another of the ex Boro players who acts as a match-day host and ambassador at the Riverside Stadium. His height of 6ft 1in would probably mean he wouldn’t be a member of a Tony Pulis team, but in the heady days of the Robson era, he was an integral part of the team surrounded by the world class superstars that the team contained at the time of his playing career.
I see Steve on most match days and we were once near neighbours in Marton, Captain Cooks birthplace, just outside Middlesbrough. He rented a house from Mark Proctor for a while, although we have both since moved away from that location. He made nearly 600 appearances in the Football League and the Premier League, the majority of which were for Tranmere Rovers and Middlesbrough. Whilst with the Boro, he was a member of the team that played in the 1997 FA Cup Final, which I remember well after flying back from Argentina to be there and then returning the next day.
He was born in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, and played non-league football for local club Spennymoor United. He then began his professional career at Tranmere Rovers, where he came to the attention of the Boro as a no-nonsense and classy defender in England’s lower league. When he joined Boro in 1993 he went on to win the club’s Player of the Year Award for the 1993–94 season. After playing for us, and being a great servant to the club, he was loaned to Crystal Palace in 2001, then to Birmingham City later that year.
This deal was then made permanent for £400,000, and he helped Birmingham gain promotion to the Premier League in the 2001–02 season. He scored his only goal for the club that season, against Stockport County. He retired from playing at the end of an injury-plagued 2002–03 season, which included a knee operation before the start of the season, a broken rib in his first game back and a badly-gashed ankle following a two-footed challenge from Everton’s Wayne Rooney which resulted in Rooney’s first senior red card.
Steve Vickers is like all the ex-players that I meet at the club and share many things in common: A pleasing and warm personality, a desire to talk to the fans and a willingness to let us at Diasboro know of their personal experiences at the Boro.
2. The Interview – a quick chat
OFB: What year did you join Boro as a professional footballer?
OFB: Who was your favourite Boro player and others that you have played with?
SV: For me, Juninho, will go down as an all-time great for Middlesbrough, but I was lucky to play with a lot of world class players.
OFB: Who were the best and worst trainers in the team?
SV: The best trainers were the ones who also played week in week out like your Mustoes and Flemings and possibly me, but the worst trainers were some of the foreign lads who weren’t keen on the British weather.
OFB: When did the team travel for away games, how did they get there, by bus or by train?
SV: We would travel on a Friday before the game usually by coach but sometimes fly to certain games that were at the end of the country like Southampton.
OFB: How many players usually travelled and did the Directors travel with you?
SV: About 15 or so players and coaching staff would travel, but Directors would travel separately to the game.
OFB: Did you have nice hotels or was it just bed and breakfast?
SV: No, we stayed in some very nice hotels.
OFB: Who did you room with for away matches?
SV: My room-mate at the time was Robbie Mustoe.
OFB: Who was the joker in the team?
SV: Nigel Pearson was one, but the biggest was of course Gazza.
OFB: Can you tell us any amusing anecdotes or pranks that were played?
SV: Well the obvious one for Gazza of course, was when he took the team coach from the training ground to put a bet on, only to bring it back with a giant gouge in the side of it. A costly trip if I remember rightly!
OFB: Whose boots did you clean as an apprentice and who cleaned yours?
SV: I was never an apprentice as such, but classed as a young professional at my first club Tranmere Rovers, so I ended up cleaning every player’s boots along with another young professional called Daryl Grierson a goalkeeper from Blackpool along with picking up kit and cleaning the dressing rooms and showers, as for who cleaned my boots I can’t remember.
OFB: Did you try and emulate your style of play, on any individual player who played in your position?
SV: I used to enjoy watching how Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson played the game at Liverpool, but I wouldn’t say I tried to emulate them but maybe watch and try and learn how to manage different situations in the game as they did.
OFB: What was your most memorable game, your own individual performance and best experience with the fans?
SV: Three major cup finals were the most memorable, along with beating Liverpool at home in the league cup probably because I scored as well and the fans that night were the loudest I’ve ever heard at the Riverside.
OFB: What was your worst game or experience and why?
SV: Any time you score an own goal or the game you are relegated are the worst experiences you can have as a player.
OFB: Is there a game that you wished you had played in, either for Boro, or another team?
SV: Probably the World Cup final for Brazil 1970 what a team that was!
OFB: Who was in your opinion the Boro manager that had the greatest influence on your career and why?
SV: I only played under one, that was Bryan Robson.
OFB: Which opposing team and which player did you fear playing against?
SV: I never feared playing against anyone, but you must be able to adapt to different players you are playing against.
OFB: Which opposing team and which player did you like playing against?
SV: Any player you knew you were getting the better of.
OFB: Who is your favourite Boro player of all time and why?
SV: Juninho, because I had the pleasure of playing in the same team.
OFB: Who is your current favourite Boro player and why?
SV: Jonny Howson has great energy and puts in a lot of effort every time he plays.
OFB: If you could be a fly on the wall, is there any dressing room you would wish to eavesdrop on?
SV: Manchester United, to see if Jose Mourinho is as miserable as he usually looks.
OFB: Do you have any regrets in your career, or missed opportunities?
SV: I wish I’d been good enough to represent my country as do a lot of players.
OFB: Do you still follow the Boro and their results?
SV: I still work at the club on match days in corporate hospitality.
OFB: Whereabouts in the Country do you live these days and what do you do?
SV: I live near Richmond North Yorkshire and I am a director in a property investment company called “Investicity” and also work for “Solaire” heating products.
OFB: Whom have you made a lifelong friend through football?
SV: Robbie Mustoe and Curtis Fleming would be two of the closest friends I’ve made in football but I also have a lot of very good friends as well.
OFB: Finally, if you hadn’t had a professional career as a footballer, what do you think you would have done as a career?
SV: As I didn’t join a professional team till I was 17, I was going to join the RAF before that, but football was always going to come first.
OFB: A huge thank you Steve, for taking the time to talk to Diasboro and our readers.
If you wish to leave a comment about OFB’s latest In2views article with David Hodgson please return to the Week 15 discussion page