Greg Halford Interview

Greg Halford Interview

Most footballers tend to stick to one position or maybe two at most, during their professional career but Greg Halford seems to be so adaptable that he’s even had a stint in goal! We sat down with the Rotherham United baller to discuss his versatility on the pitch and the rest of his footballing career...

What got you into football?

As a young kid, I remember I was in primary school and there was a leaflet going around for a Sunday league club called Uplands Rangers and they needed players so they sent leaflets to my school and me and a few of my mates went down, had a couple of training sessions and just got into it from there.

Where abouts did you grow up then?

I grew up in a place called Springfield, in Chelmsford and going through school I was trying to play every single sport I could. My teachers, my parents and everybody was really supportive in whatever I chose to do. At an early age I was predominantly playing rugby more than I was football. A lot of people, including my parents, would say I was a better rugby player than I was football but at that time rugby wasn’t a professional sport and I wanted to go into a professional sport where I could achieve things. I had options going into basketball and rugby when I got into secondary school but I was just drawn to football. Football was what everyone was doing in school, I had a natural talent for it and I plugged away, got some games under my belt and worked from the very bottom to get to where I am today.

Do you feel playing other sports helped your footballing game in any way?

Yeah, I do. I go to my old teachers school down in Watford and he asks me to go and speak to a few of the students. I always tell them to do as much and any sport you can because playing sports like basketball and volleyball gets you thinking in tight areas, which is the same as football. You have to react quickly and every single sport has elements that you can take into football. I tell kids to try everything and it’ll help you in the long run.

You have a long throw, right?

Yeah!

Do you think that came from basketball?

I think that was just a natural thing to be honest… When I went to secondary school I did a lot of athletics. Javelin was one of my strong ones. It baffles me to see people that can’t throw the ball properly. I was watching Wales play the other night and you see Gareth Bale taking long throws. I wouldn’t say his technique is good but his pure strength gets him the length that he has and if he worked on his technique, it’d be enormous.

At what point did you think football could be a career for you?

The first year playing with Uplands I got a call to play and represent for my county. Then it sort of progressed from there. I signed for another local team called Chelmsford City and spent a couple of years there. I had a trial at Colchester when I was 14 and since that trial my parents told me I need to make a decision on what I want to do but I couldn’t because I loved rugby that much. I was playing rugby on a Saturday and playing for Colchester on Sunday. Neither of the teams knew I was doing it until I got signed for Colchester and then I had to make a decision between the two. Because the new challenge of being at a professional club and being at an academy, I just thought from then on in I could fully concentrate on football. Once I was full time football, I was hooked.

Who would you say is the most exciting talent you’ve played alongside?

I’ve played with so many legends of the game and so many exciting players. The likes of Kanu, Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole and people like that who’ve done everything in the game. They’re the people you aspire to and you want to learn off. Kanu was just on a different level to anyone I’ve ever played with. When I played with him he was at the back end of his career and he didn’t have the legs he used to have but he never ever gave the ball away. He knew where to be at all times and he knew where his teammates were. They’re the type of players you want to be like and one day you’re going to get to that stage where you can’t move the way you used to be able to and you need to learn the game. He knew it!

Who’s the toughest opponent you’ve come up against?

There’s a few… I remember playing against Juventus one year. They had Del Piero, Trezeguet and Pavel Nedved playing. It’s hard to single out players of that calibre. Ronaldo at United... Scholes, Giggs, Rooney. It’s surreal for me even now to think I’ve played against players like that and put my witts up against them and not done bad up against them either. The game against Juve was probably my hardest game though.

Do you feel coming up against players of that calibre affects your game?

When I was younger it did because you used to grow up watching those players on the TV. You kind of idolised them and put them up right up there and you’re thinking, “I shouldn’t really be on a pitch with these guys.” then the more you play in the Premiership and the more you see of these players you start believing you belong there. It took me a while to figure that out but once I did it put me in good stead.

Best goal you’ve ever scored?

It was for Colchester against Sheffield Wednesday. I think we won 3-0 and that was the best goal I’ve ever scored. I remember a player called Kem Izzet, Mussy Izzet’s brother... He just passed it out to me, I was playing right back at the time. I was probably about 35 yards out approaching the corner of the box and I just put it across the keeper and it literally hit the stanchion. I look back on it now and it’s definitely the one. Someone actually sent it to me on Twitter the other day!

How did you adapt to playing in so many different positions?

Well, I’ve played every position. I was sub keeper at Sheffield United cause Kevin Blackwood never put a keeper on the bench and neither did Neil Warnock before that. The year before it was Phil Jagielka and he used to say that he trained with the keepers once a week so that’s what I did when I went to Sheffield United. It’s been tough learning how to play every position. It takes people 20 years to learn their own position but my Mum always used to say if you play 11 positions you have 11 chances of getting in the team. But then on the flipside, you’re a jack of all trades, master of none. I think getting to the latter part of my career I wanted to be a master of one position and I feel that sort of hindered me to a certain extent, in the progression of my game and career. It’s been an asset for every team I’ve played for because if we are short of numbers like we were at Portsmouth then I could cover every position and it’d make it a lot easier for the managers who were in charge, at the time, to have faith in me and stick me in any position. It’s been tough and every new club that I go to I speak to the manager and ask where he’d like to play me and every manager has a different opinion, which I take as a compliment because I feel that I’m as good in every position so it’s definitely a compliment but it’s been a long road and a tough road.

What advice would you give to a player experiencing ups and downs in their career?

Just keep on going, keep on grinding through and don’t lose the love of the sport because it will get better. One of the lowest points of my career was when I was at Portsmouth, when we went into administration. Not getting paid for 8 months was the hardest time that I’ve been through. Obviously all the stuff going on off the pitch we were taking onto the pitch. Performances weren’t good enough and we ended up getting relegated out of the Championship but there’s always new doors that open for you and as long as you keep on plugging away and always love the sport you’re in.

If you were to pick your strongest position, what would it be?

I can’t… I always used to think it was central midfield. I played there under Peter Taylor for England U21’s and he liked me there but I actually went as a striker. It wasn’t until the last game of the tournament that he played me in midfield, alongside Tom Huddlestone, but by that time the tournament had taken it’s toll on me and I only lasted 45 minutes. From then I never played as a centre midfielder until I went to Portsmouth which was in 2011 and I remember playing against Southampton away. We scored a last minute winner and I played as a holding midfielder where I hadn’t played for about 5 years and I got slightly into the groove but then I didn’t play there again until Rotherham so that’s another 5 years not playing in that position. So playing there it was good, last year, under Warnock. He played me there in a 3 and I think if I played in a 3 I could do that position comfortably and do it well. Other than that and for consistency I think right back is probably my best position. I’ve played 350 games there!

Would you suggest players to be versatile then?

At an early stage be as versatile as you possibly can be. You have to learn the game and learning different positions will help you learn it. When I was playing as a centre forward, I knew I could play as a centre forward because I played as a centre back and knew the types of runs a centre back wouldn’t like. Stuff like that you need to learn and it will only help you but from middle to end you want to settle down in a position and make it your own.

Do you have any aspirations to play anywhere else?

I’ve always wanted to go to other countries and experience different cultures and different ways of playing. Spain’s always been one that I’ve wanted to go to. Just the way football over there is so easy and pleasing to watch. Some of the best players in the world are over there so that’s always been an aspiration of mine but time’s ticking on and I’m going to find it hard to get over there now.

What interests do you have outside of football?

I’ve got a bug for golf at the minute! A major bug… We’ve got our own golf group on Whatsapp, at Rotherham, so we try and get as many rounds in as possible. Fortunately enough our training ground is attached to a golf club so whenever we have the chance, obviously earlier in the week, we hop on the golf course and have a quick round.

What were you thoughts when you first put on Concave boots?

I was surprised because it’s quite an unknown brand, at the minute so you don’t expect too much. When I put them on, they were just the right fit for my foot! Not many boots you can wear straight out of the box and them not hurt or give you blisters but I could play in these straight away and they were really comfy. The first game I wore them was Sunderland in pre-season and they were great!

What was the reaction when you first wore Concave boots?

You get a little bit of stick because it is so unknown to some people and you know, everyone nowadays follows the bigger brands. I’ve always wanted to wear something different and a boot that suited my foot. The Concave boots seem to fit my foot like a mould. I wear the Volts and you do actually notice the technology. That’s the weird thing about it. When you actually hit a sweet strike it takes the pressure off your foot and you can feel that it does actually create more power, which is a strange feeling when that happens. It definitely works!

Do you have any superstitions or specific ways you prepare yourself for a game?

Wouldn’t say I have any superstitions but moreso habits. Everything left first. I don’t know why, it’s just something I’ve always grown up doing and done out of habit. From everyday shoes, to football boots. Left sock, left shin pad, left boot, tie them up and move onto the right. I try not to get into superstitions though because they always end up going wrong.

Future goals?

Well, I was a bit annoyed when my girlfriend did this but she went onto my PFA login details and signed me up for my UEFA B coaching course. At the time I was a annoyed with her but looking at it now it’s something that I need and want to do. The older I’ve got the more I’m inclined to going into coaching and give my experiences to younger kids. So I think that’s what I want to do... Go into coaching. I don’t know what form of coaching, whether it be academy or first team but it’s definitely something I want to do.

Finally, any advice to any young aspiring footballers out there?

Follow your dreams and don’t let anybody get in your way. At the end of the day, people get jealous and want to bring you down so be ruthless in what you need to do and want to do!

Writen by Concave @ 24/10/2016 07:21

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