Our resident Southerner and stalker extraordinaire, Mark Harrison, went to meet Issue 8 guest editor and star Super Kev in a luxury 5 star hotel in Chelsea where he was staying and preparing for Soccer Aid 2012. He was given an exclusive catch up interview.
MH - How did you get involved in Soccer Aid?
SKP - It all happened quickly. I had planned to go away with the family and a few months back booked a trip based around the chance we might make the play offs and then a few days later I got a phone call out of the blue. The game is on Sunday and we were off with friends the same day but the opportunity is so flattering that I have delayed my holiday to be part of this amazing event. When you look at the calibre of players taking part, to be considered alongside them is fantastic.
I met up with the lads on Tuesday, we train all week then I have a talk-in in the North East on Friday (the Ryhope Prize Dinner), meet up with them again in Manchester on Saturday and the game is Sunday, then off to see the family the next morning as I have been away nearly a week.
When I turned up, I was a bit in awe and I was expecting them to say ‘who are you’ but they have all been great to me. I am not an England legend like Des Walker with his 59 caps, David Seaman with his 75 caps, Teddy Sheringham with his 51 caps or LeSaux with 36 caps.
MH - You have 8 more caps than the celebrities!
SKP – Yeh, you're right. It may have been linked to me meeting Jonathan Wilkes at a Take That concert sometime back and him knowing Robbie well. I chatted to him for a bit so maybe it started from then. I am sure they had a few in mind before me but with the Euros and many premier league players on holiday I got the call.
We watched a video made by UNICEF the first time we got together and there was not a dry eye in the room. It’s heart breaking and the plight of these vulnerable children really hits home. Anyone with kids will agree we have to do something to help them.
MH - So who is playing?
SKP - It’s England versus the rest of the World.
We are up against Roy Keane, Clarence Seedorf, Hernan Crespo, Freddie Ljungberg (who replaced Rudd van Nistelroy), Jaap Stam and Edwin Van der Sar. It’s like a fantasy football line up.
The talk in the build-up is the strength of their midfield as Seedorf still plays and Keane will be fit as a fiddle but we have a decent bunch of lads. Ben Shepherd is a strong lad, he whacked Graeme le Saux this morning, ran straight through him like a bull so I think we will see some great battles in the middle of the park come Sunday.
We have Big Sam Allardyce as the gaffer, aided by Peter Reid it's just like old times and our coach is Bradley Walsh. Bradley is hysterical and I am surprised we get any running done as he has me in stitches. We have been training after the Rest of the World at Fulham and it’s going great; the enthusiasm and passion is immense and everyone wants extra sessions to get as ready as we can be for Sunday. They expect a lot from me. After all, I’m still playing but they forget I am twice as old as some of them.
The atmosphere is good, the craic is the same as in a normal dressing room, but then I look around and remind myself whom I am playing with and knowing that behind that door is Robbie Williams in the loo.
The conversation I had with Robbie was surreal. We were chatting about Stoke, where my wife was also born, how old she is and where she went to school etc. yeh, me chatting with an international showbiz superstar!
If I had a choice between being a footballer or pop star I think I would have chosen the singing route, not that I am any good. The career is so much longer, maybe 30 to 40 years compared to what a pro footballer has, but chatting to Olly Murs he would give up everything to play a professional game. I think he was good as a kid but a cruciate injury stopped any further development.
The highlights of training go out on the TV late at night and after I have appeared I have had people texting me to get this and that signed by my team mates so I think they will all soon start avoiding me whenever I am holding a pen or a camera.
I got a picture for my daughter with JLS and she is like ‘Wow, get me more’ but I can’t go around pestering them too much, laughs Kevin.
MH - Is it a serious game then?
SKP - Once the whistle goes it’s a real football match, the English are desperate to win having lost the last one on penalties. It’s one of the things that have really struck me about this group of lads; they just live and breathe football. All they talkabout is football, the JLS boys, Robbie; all they want to know about is football. I have to pinch myself as these pop stars want to chat to me, some old bloke who plays for Blackpool. They want extra sessions at training and are all in great shape. It will be some game to watch and take part in. I am very excited!
MH - How’s the media attention around the game?
SKP - We have a studio in the hotel and every night a programme goes out with snippets from training and following the banter. I caught the last few minutes of lasts night’s show and you see Will Ferrell sitting on the bench and I was creased up. His appearance apparently shifted 10,000 unsold tickets to make it a full house.
The participants are very appreciative of being involved and are very excited for Sunday; everyone is giving up their time and no-one, especially the likes of Woody Harrelson, Mike Myers and Gerard Butler need to travel across the Atlantic to raise their profile. They are all here to raise money for UNICEF.
There are people walking around that don’t need the promotion, they just love football and UNICEF is the cause that has brought us all together.
MH - So, tell me about the play offs.
SKP - Well, firstly I think to get to the play offs was a fantastic achievement. We lost some top players last summer and so to get as close as we did was great.
It was gutting, again! It is heart breaking as I think we did not deserve to lose the game. I have played many times when you know you lost and deserved to but I don’t think West Ham played better than us. There was a blatant foul leading up to the goal and although you can't blame the ref, it being so late on there was no way back for us in that 15 minutes. It was really disappointing; we had a do planned that night and it was well, just really flat.
In the Charlton play off I am not so sure we were the best team. It was quite even but the way we lost it was horrendous. At Birmingham we battered Derby and lost one nil and again at the weekend we did not get the result our performance deserved. It’s the third time I have lost a play-off final and its numbing now. This will sound terrible but you have wasted three weeks of your holiday and built up your expectations. Hand on heart, if we get to the final next year, I will seriously consider not playing as I am not sure I can cope with it again.
Blackpool took up the option of another year with me. It’s a big shame it’s not in the Premiership but I love working for Holloway. He has been brilliant for me. He recognised I was a bit jaded pre Christmas, not playing yet travelling up to Blackpool all the time. He was intuitive and said he felt I lacked an edge in training, I was fit enough but he knew the travelling was taking its toll. He knows I work harder on my own as I would not want to let him down and that trust has been repaid with the performances I put in at the back end of the season.
MH - Thankyou Kevin. We appreciate your time and look forward to chatting to you again for Sixty6 magazine our pending England retro magazine.
Soccer Aid is a British charity that was started in 2006 as the idea of Robbie Williams. Everytwo years he pulls together legends and celebrities to raise money for UNICEF through a simple game of football. Over £7million has been raised to date andthis Sunday sees a sell-out crowd push that even higher. http://www.unicef.org.uk/soccer-aid/