I cringe writing this one…
We were out playing in Thailand at a preseason tournament – Man City, Bolton, Everton and some Thai team. Me and Richard Dunne had played really well in a 2-0 win over Bolton, so Stuart Pearce told us he was gonna rest us for the next game and that if we fancied a few beers and a night off, we should go for it. So we did. We were in the hotel bar chatting with a load of Everton fans and having a few drinks on a lovely warm night. I’m an Everton boy myself, so it was a great night and we were all having a really good chat and a laugh.
Turns out this punchy little fucker was 15 years old… and his dad had him out drinking ’til 3am
It gets to about three in the morning, and one of the Everton fans has had a bit too much to drink and starting talking nonsense. Robbie Fowler was playing for City at the time, but hadn’t come out to Thailand because of an injury. Robbie was a good friend of mine: he’d looked out for me when I was starting out in the first team and we got on well. So this guy starts having a real pop at Robbie, saying he’s a coke-head and that he didn’t go on the preseason because he knew the Everton fans would ‘do’ him. Drunken nonsense really. So I told him to either stop talking nonsense or fuck off. Turns out he was there with a few mates, and they heard the argument. So this young lad comes running over at full pelt and boots me in the shin. So I slapped him in the face. Not a punch I have to stress: an open handed slap. Turns out this punchy little fucker was 15 years old! And his dad had him out drinking ’til 3am. Obviously, the press made it out as if I’d just attacked this innocent young kid, but he was out at three o’clock in the morning drinking in Thailand, and then he cracked me in the shin for no reason.
I ended up on a plane back to Manchester and on the back pages of every tabloid newspaper in the country
After that it all got bit silly really: I had an argument with Richard Dunne: he wanted me to apologise, but I couldn’t see how I’d done anything wrong. That turned into a drunken scuffle. A few guys grabbed me to calm things down and while they had hold of me the kid’s dad came over and punched me twice on the top of the head. A few journalists from the red-top papers were in the same bar, and so one thing lead to another, and I ended up on a plane back to Manchester and on the back pages of every tabloid newspaper in the country. Brilliant.