'The Hawthorns was somewhere I always loved going as a player'
I saw the details about the new under-18 intake earlier this week and it got me thinking about when I first joined the club.
Those lads will have to put in plenty of hard work – it doesn’t get any easier just because you’ve gone full-time at a professional club.
There’s always another batch of players coming through so you have to make sure you do things right.
Being a footballer is a great life. A lot has changed around the club since I was there in terms of facilities and the lads have it all within their power to make themselves a professional footballer.
They will certainly get help and support. It’s not easy to make the transition from school to going full-time, although they do spend a lot more time in the Academy these days before actually joining the under-18s.
I would give anything to go back to those days! What they learn at this point will stay with them throughout their careers.
I’m not going down to the game on Saturday but will definitely keep in touch with it throughout the afternoon.
The Hawthorns was somewhere I always loved going as a player. I played there a few times and it was always quite a lucky ground for me, whether with Sunderland or any of my other tams.
I always enjoyed it – it’s a proper ground and you always knew the pitch would be good, which wasn’t always the case in those days.
Probably my favourite memory of going there is a game from 1994 – we won 3-1 and I scored.
They’re a decent side and did a job on us earlier in the season, but it’s another game where we’re in with a chance if we play to our capabilities.