Neil Ruddock on Alan Shearer, England and Liverpool's Champions League chances.
ENGLAND THEN AND NOW: Neil Ruddock enjoyed a colourful career with Millwall, Southampton, Tottenham, Liverpool, West Ham and England.
George Graham was his first manager at Millwall, Alan Shearer became his best friend at Southampton and Terry Venables became the most important man in his career, first with Spurs and then with England.
After retirement, Ruddock became a household name by taking part in TV’s ‘I’m a Celebrity’. He is now on the after-dinner speaking circuit and returns to Anfield on 27 March for a game in aid of the Tsunami appeal.
Then: Was your team-mate and friend Alan Shearer as sensible as his image suggests?
Alan is one of the great practical jokers, I always had to be on my guard against him. Mind you, I nearly ruined his career before it had even started. I raided his hotel mini-bar when we were youngsters at Southampton.
He chased me down the corridor but I dropped a couple of glasses and he stepped on the broken glass.
He needed an operation to save one of his toes on his left foot. Maybe that’s why it’s not a patch on his right! He’s still one of my best friends and we were neighbours in Southport when I played for Liverpool and he won the championship with Blackburn.
Now: How do you assess Liverpool this season?
I must admit I wanted Big Sam Allardyce to get the job when Gerard Houllier left but now it’s Rafael Benitez, I’m going to support whoever is in charge.
I have seen Liverpool a couple of times this season, I saw them beat Norwich at Carrow Road in the last game I watched. It’s been an inconsistent season.
Then: Was Paul Gascoigne the best player you played with?
The best player I saw was Glenn Hoddle when he was at Tottenham. There’s not anything worth doing with a football that he couldn’t do. When I had the chance to train with England, Gazza was the best.
Paul Ince says Gazza was the best he ever played with and that is some accolade because Incey has been with a few at Inter Milan and Manchester United as well as England.
Hoddle had incredible talent as well, they were both true greats.
Now: When do you plan to go to Anfield next?
I’m going on 27 March - not to watch but to play! I’m part of a Celebrities v Former Liverpool players match to raise money for Tsunami Relief. I think Ant and Dec and Robbie Williams will be in the celebrities team and all of us Spice Boys will be in the Liverpool side.
I really can’t wait to play in front of The Kop again. When you play for Liverpool, you take it as normal but since I’ve retired, I have really missed it. It will bring back so many memories to play at Anfield once more.
Then: Were you at your peak as a player at Liverpool?
The best football I played was probably the season before I joined Liverpool at Tottenham. Terry Venables knew exactly how to handle me, when to put an arm around my shoulder and when to give me a kick.
By the end, he never had to say anything, I could tell by a look what he was after. That season at Spurs got me my move to Liverpool and I have to say the pressure was incredible. We might be second or third in the table but it still wasn’t good enough.
Now: Has 'I'm a Celebrity' changed your life?
I didn’t really understand how big the show is when I went into the jungle.
Most men knew me as a footballer before I went in but girls and women just recognise me from the show and nothing else. Old grannies recognise me, it is a completely different fan base to what I had before.
Then: What do you remember about your England experience?
My one match came against Nigeria at Wembley in 1994 just after Terry Venables had taken over.
Getting into the squad and training with all those great players was amazing enough and to play was like a dream. We beat Nigeria 1-0 with a goal from David Platt and my dad still has the cap somewhere.
Now: What are you doing now?
I’m doing a lot of after-dinner speaking, last week I was on the bill with Frank Carson and tonight I’ve got an engagement in Devon when Liverpool are playing in the Champions League.
I’ve been doing pilots for television work and have joined the same agency that looks after Ian Wright. I’ve also had some acting scripts sent to me although they are all for nutty hard-men type characters which is something I want to get away from.
I still enjoy life but I haven’t had a drink for ten months and don’t intend to have one. I was at a tribute dinner for Gary Mabbutt and Gazza was telling me he hadn’t had a drink for two years. Life does go on without it!