Posted 08 Dec 2006 - 21:28
You've had a great start at Everton...
Yeah, I've been delighted with it. I couldn't have asked for a better start - I scored on my début. I'm delighted with the boys here - they've really helped me to settle in straight away and they're a great bunch of lads. I'd like to say thanks to them really, because week in, week out, they've helped me to score goals. And I'm delighted to be scoring goals.
Sounds like there's a good atmosphere there...
Yeah, there is. There's a great atmosphere. There's Stubbsie, Leon Osman, Tim Cahill and Beats, Mikel Arteta - they're all really easy to like because they're down to earth people and get on with.
Were there any initiations?
I had to sing a song in Dallas on our pre-season tour! All the new boys and the young lads had to. I went on the internet to get the lyrics for Stand By Me, printed them off and I'd been singing them to myself and practising in my room every night. At the end of the meal, Joseph Yobo tinkled his glass with a knife and we all had to stand up and sing our songs. It was terrifying but I sang the first chorus and the rest of the boys joined in. There was some great banter and it was a good night out.
Were you hoping one of the big four clubs would come in for you?
No. Obviously I was grateful for all the clubs that came in and I've got a great respect for all the managers that did that. But it nice to feel wanted. It's like a good problem to have: three Premiership teams come in and want you. It's better than having none. I feel as if I'm a lucky person to have that opportunity in life. But Everton are a great team.
What's it like to be back in the Premiership?
Quality! The first game was nerve-wracking because I hadn't scored in pre-season, but to get that first goal was fantastic. A dream come true, because the fans are so passionate up here. In London there's so many teams and the support is spread out, but here there's two big ones, it's red and blues and the city is split between the two and it's so passionate it's frightening. When they ran on the pitch during the pre-season game against Bury, they took my boots and my shirt and my socks! It was a great feeling, even though I hadn't scored a goal. I was thinking, God, don't take my shorts because the slips were built inside and I would have been naked. But they were class, it wasn't threatening at all!
Those fans are something special...
That atmosphere is the main reason I signed for Everton. To play in front of 40,000 people at home week in, week-out is superb. I remember we played Blackburn away at the start of the season and we were one nil down. Tim Cahill scored with the last kick and the fans - f*cking hell - they came over the barriers and even though I hadn't scored it was the most intense celebration ever. It was fantastic.
The first year in the Premiership was a massive learning curve...
Yeah, I scored a lot of goals and got my début from England and I guess after all that people were expecting me to leave Palace. But I stayed and scored more goals for Palace and that was a great feeling. I had a fantastic four years with Palace.
Would you have preferred to have come up with Palace rather than sign for a new club?
That's a hard one. Obviously at the time I was at Palace so my heart was with them and my aim was to get back up with them. Once we went down I signed a new contract with Palace and signed my future to Palace. That season I wanted to go up, but it didn't happen so I had to sit down with my family and decided that I had to leave. The chairman was fine with me, brilliant in fact, he always has been. He respected my decision at the end of the season when we didn't go back up and as long as he got the right price and we were both happy, it was the right time to move.
Who did you support as a kid?
I've always supported Arsenal because a lot of my family were from there - my uncles, my auntie, so we used to go up there every other weekend and my Dad used to take me to all the games. We would stand on the old Clock End and Perry Groves was in the team alongside Kevin Campbell, Paul Merson, Alan Smith and Ian Wright. So that was the team I followed as a kid.
Who was your favourite player?
Probably Ian Wright. You can tell he's a brilliant character because of what he's done since in TV - he's a great person and a natural goalscorer. If the ball was there, he'd bang in the back of the net. He's the kind of person that I've always idolised and followed. I tried to learn off him too. He was brilliant and to see him score goals for Arsenal would make you want to do it yourself. I'm thankful that I've got that chance now.
Did you think you were going to make the World Cup last summer?
At the time I knew what I had to do was to keep my form up. Once I'd got my head around being in the Championship I worked my hardest for Crystal Palace, worked week in week out and kept my fingers crossed it would be enough. I was quite surprised to be in his preliminary squad, because to travel with the boys in Portugal was great, but then Wayne and Michael came back, but just to be involved was great. To be in the World Cup atmosphere was still a buzz.
Did you enjoy watching the World Cup?
Yea, because I'm an England fan through and through. I'll always support them, even if I'm playing for them or not. It was great to watch - it's entertaining for everyone and if you don't watch it, you're missing out.
When Michael Owen got injured, did you think "I wish he'd taken me"?
Yeah, you always think it, but it was always going to happen. Someone was always going to get injured, it happens every World Cup. You can think what if, but you have to go with it.
Now you're been hailed as the future of England...
I'm excited, but obviously Everton are my bread and butter - they pay the wages. I just want to do well for them and anything that comes after that is a bonus. I just want to be in the England loop. To get on the pitch is always brilliant. I have to keep working hard and improving. I was devastated to be injured recently because I felt I was close as I could be to getting into the England team again. But my hamstring went and I couldn't make it.
Posted 08 Dec 2006 - 22:25
AJ is just a quality bloke through and through.
A family member of mine is very close to a lady who owns a cafe near to the Asda in Hunts Cross. Week in, week out, AJ turns up in his brand new Bentley Continental with his kids, chills out for a little while his wife is shopping, talks to the kids who recognise him, signs a few autographs and smiles for the camera-phone photographs and leaves everybody smiling.
HOWEVER, a very good friend of my other half was in the Hope Street Hotel yesterday and 'Dragonfly' Crouch was in there. Apparently, he snubbed half of the staff, ignored the rest, and turned a lad of about 9 who came into the hotel wearing a RS shirt away without a photo or signature. Typical premadonna RS money grabber!
The more I read about AJ the more I think he is a gentleman. Nice to have him with the club!
Edited by www.fc-ssl.com, 08 Dec 2006 - 22:27.
Posted 09 Dec 2006 - 00:02
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