Date:Wednesday May 15 2013
Thank you Simon for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak to Vital Walsall about your career in football.
You started your career as a trainee at Crystal Palace. Being a local lad from Croydon was it always your dream to start your career with the Eagles?
Not really. Just wanted to be a pro footballer. Palace was my local side so took interest in their results and when offered apprenticeship jumped at the chance.
In only your second full season as a pro - You played a major part in Palace's success as they reached the FA Cup final against Manchester United and also finished in 3rd place in the Old First Division. This was labelled as one of the greatest seasons at Crystal Palace. Was you surprised of how well your career started??
Yes of course I had been in and around that squad all season and managed a few games so was great. Was fortunate that I made my full debut at Anfield and was around some really good pros who helped me.
You have played under some good managers during your football career including Steve Coppell, Mark MgGhee, Alan Smith, Ray Wilkins, Brian Horton and Colin Lee.
Who would you say had the biggest impact and improved you mostly as a player?
I wouldn`t be able to single out one manager as they all helped me in different ways. Obviously the early ones in Alan Smith and Steve Coppell had big parts in my upbringing as did the senior pros at the clubs.
After accumulating over £2.5m in transfer fees, you arrived at Walsall in 2003. What was you first impressions of Walsall?
I knew of Walsall from my time at Wolves and always saw the ground as a nice compact stadium and after meeting the manager and staff thought it was a good solid family club and somewhere I could enjoy my football and maybe progress into coaching.
Most will remember you for being in one of the best squads ever assembled at Walsall FC, playing along the likes of Paul Merson, Vinny Samways and Steve Corica.
What was it like from a personal point of view playing in a team like this and your most memorable moment?
It was a fantastic squad of players and I enjoyed playing in the side and I think we gelled well and all had different attributes that contributed to a great team up until Christmas. Vinny was a calming player who kept the ball well, Steve was a good attacking player on his day and we all know what Merse was a legend and one of the best players I played with . I guess I was the last cog who did a bit of everything not too sure.
Unfortunately, That team went from a top 12 side at Christmas to a relegated side in May. What do you think went wrong?
I think a number of factors contributed to this. Obviously Paul had few issues and then Mick Halsall went back to his role of youth coach and we had few injuries as well. So I can`t put finger on 1 issue just number of these smaller problems upsetting the whole balance of the side.
In April 2004 you became temporarily our assistant manager alongside Paul Merson.
Was it difficult to make the change from a player to club management?
Yes it`s never easy to make the transition and took me longer than I thought and at one point I went back to just playing as felt I wasn`t contributing enough to either role. Then I really enjoyed it and but for maybe bit of luck would have liked to carry on doing this.
In the space of 3 years we were relegated to the bottom tier of English football. Walsall FC then released you in the summer...Was it difficult leaving Walsall in such a position?
Yes as I had enjoyed my time there and had rally put a lot of effort into my role as player/coach and had managed nearly 40 games each season and felt I had played well enough to earn contract but as we know when a new manager comes in he has his own ideas and that is part of football, but I was gutted at the position we were in as a club even though I felt I had given my all.
Do you still speak to any of ex Walsall players and do you still follow our progress?
Still speak with Jamie Lawrence and am in touch with couple now via twitter and yes always look out for result and hope it the right one.
After a brief spell at Hereford you moved onto Bromley and helped them to promotion. Before becoming temporary boss of Bromley and then Cray Wanderers.
Are you currently working in the game and having had a brief spell in management, is this something you want to do?
I am currently helping out at Margate Fc in the Ryman Premier and I love football so will always try and be involved in some shape of form but would I go back full time I am not sure.
What would you say was your biggest achievement in football?
I don`t have one achievement other than fulfilling my dream of playing professionally and managing to stay in the game for so long.
Finally, do you have a message for the Walsall Fans?
Yes stick with the manager and team and hope they back in the Championship as soon as possible and thanks for all the support when I was there.
Everyone at Vital Walsall would like to wish Ozzie success with Margate and for the future.
Date:Wednesday May 15 2013
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Match Officials v Swindon (A) (Monday November 23 2015)
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