Looking back, it’s all rather pathetic really
We were preparing to play Manchester United in the derby. That summer we’d signed Dabo: he was a French international and he’d come from Lazio as a big name player. He used to smoke cigarettes and seemed to me like he didn’t give a fuck about his football. He was just picking up his money and was over in England on a jolly up. We got on alright with each other, but we weren’t particularly close. I was ahead of him in the pecking order at the club and getting picked more than him. All in all we wasn’t having the best of times really. It was a frustrating year for him, I guess.
I told him I thought he was shit at football, he told me I thought I was big time and started swearing at me in French
In the run up to the United game there was a really tense atmosphere around the training ground, and everyone was putting a shift in. In one training game I went in a little hard on him, I think I left my shoulder in. He took exception to it and went in really late on me a few minutes later. But I saw it coming and jumped out of the way. Then we started insulting each other. I told him I thought he was shit at football, he told me I thought I was big time and started swearing at me in French. So training gets cut short, and we’re all walking off the pitch. He’s walking ahead of me with Sylvain Distin, and they’re chatting in French, I think Sylvain was telling him to calm down. But me and him are still having a pop at each other, and I just remember laughing at him and saying, dead sarcastically ‘Yeah, you’re a good player’. He literally just flipped and sprinted towards me, and when he got about a yard away, he pulled his fist back to hit me.
I thought: Right, we’re in a fight here
He was a big old lad too, so I wasn’t just gonna let myself get hit, so I punched him and took the wind out of his sails. But obviously he wasn’t gonna just back down after that, so I thought ‘Right, we’re in a fight here and I’m not gonna take any chances’, so I hit him again and I knocked him out. I think I threw two punches during the whole thing.
He started a fight, I responded and he lost
I got sent home from training so he could calm down and get checked out by the club. And a couple of days later, I got a call to come in to a meeting and was told that I was suspended until further notice. I think he got suspended too. But in the meantime, he went to the papers and the police and told them I’d attacked him from behind and that he wanted to press charges. By that point I couldn’t do anything or put my side of the story across until after the court case was finished. But I’ve always looked at it this way: he was a big lad, who liked to throw his weight about. He started a fight, I responded and he lost. And the only way he could get his own back was to go to the papers. Pathetic really.