An email conversation with Shaun Goater: 'At Man City Joe Royle believed in me when others didn't'

Terror of facing up to Alex Ferguson; Hearing Goat song for the first time; Why I want to help kids in Bermuda
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The Independent Football

Your first contract in English football was with Manchester United back in 1988. How did that come about? Manchester United had a week-long break and just happened to be in Bermuda. I was invited to play in the opening game before one of United's friendlies with the national team and I played well enough to impress the United scouts.

What were your first impressions of Alex Ferguson? Terror! He was pleasant enough but not very friendly and welcoming. I found out to my cost that he was a force to be reckoned with; I always used to play with a smile on my face and grin to myself if I missed an easy chance. I did that until one game he said, "If you smile again when you miss an opportunity you'll be on the first fucking plane back to Bermuda." I never did it again!

Who played the biggest role in helping you settle in Manchester? Lee Sharpe, my room-mate in digs in Salford. He and his family were great - I used to spend weekends with them in Birmingham. Otherwise, I would have been stuck in digs on my own.

Were you given a fair crack of the whip at United? I don't think so but Alex Ferguson might not agree. I don't believe he or anyone believed I had a long-term future there. But I have no regrets - I learnt a lot.

What was it like growing up in Bermuda? I was a regular kid, into bikes, skateboards and swimming, though my first love was always football and I was an avid fan of the TV programme Big League Soccer. My dad wasn't around and my mother worked around the clock to bring in enough money to give us a comfortable life. I didn't get everything I ever wanted but everything I ever needed - like football boots or my first bike - I got. Mum was a good footballer and the most competitive person you've ever met. She tells me that from the age of two she told me I would be a great footballer so I guess I can trace my success back to her!

Which four people would you invite to a dinner party? Dr Phil (a US psychologist with his own TV show and author of best-selling motivational books); Robert Kiyosaki (author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad - a book which helped change my life); Diego Maradona (the greatest No 10 who ever lived); my wife Anita.

On holiday are you a culture vulture, adrenalin junkie or beach bum? Beach bum. I have mastered the art of doing nothing.

What is the proudest moment of your career? Being offered my first professional contract at the age of 17. The then Bermuda coach, Gary Darrell, told me that I'd be offered a two-year deal.

Which is your favourite goal? It has to be the second goal I scored during the last-ever Maine Road derby. I heard the fans singing a new song: "Who let the Goat out?" and I thought, "I'm having that one!" Eyal [Berkovic] placed a perfectly weighted pass into my stride. I held off two defenders and the ball bounced in front of me, allowing me to make a gentle half-volley over Barthez. It was my 100th goal for Man City and particularly satisfying to score against Man Utd.

When did you first hear the "Feed The Goat" song? I can't really remember but I loved it. I remember the lads coming in at half-time and saying "Did you hear that song, Goat? They're singing about you" and it just caught on. Some people reckon it was during the 4-0 win over Fulham, others in the away win at Forest - I don't know who thought it up, but I definitely owe them one.

Who is the best player you have played against or with? Martin Keown was the best I played against - he was over you like a rash. The best player I played with was Ali Benarbia, a magician on the pitch.

What is the greatest match that you have been involved in? The play-offs against Gillingham at Wembley when Man City got promoted. We were in the last 10 minutes of extra time and Gillingham scored - twice! Our dream of promotion was in bits and some City fans had even got as far as the Tube. Then the ball fell to Kevin Horlock, who drilled it home to make it 2-1. Then just before the whistle, Paul Dickov scored. We went on to win on penalties. I've never known a comeback like it!

What was your worst dressing-room bollocking? At half-time during the very last game at Maine Road - and my last for the club. At half-time we were 1-0 down and [Kevin] Keegan told me that if I didn't buck my ideas up I'd be off in five minutes!

Who is the best manager you played under? At Man City Joe Royle was great; he believed in me when others didn't - and was proved right. John Ward at Bristol City was excellent at looking after the players and making them feel good about themselves. And though at Reading I only had the fortune to work with Alan Pardew for six weeks, I really appreciated his abilities as a great tactician.

What's next for Shaun Goater? I'm starting a professional team in Bermuda which will be playing in the American A-league. This is what Bermuda needs, because it will give the kids something to strive for. I'd love more Bermudian kids to have the opportunity to play in the UK, and by raising the standard of the game it's more likely to happen.

What was the biggest disappointment in your career? At Rotherham. The club tried to get rid of me to Chesterfield in 1993. I'd been at the club for about four years and it took me that long to forget the sun, forget the adverse weather and forget Bermuda. Once I changed my thinking, my game improved and things finally began to take off for me.

Is it true that at Reading you were left on the bench after 48 appearances because if you had made two more the club would have owed Man City £50,000? Yes, and I was glad that the club eventually came clean about it and the fans understood.

What was your biggest international occasion? The World Cup, when everyone in Bermuda was behind the team. And I was proud to lead out Bermuda at the City of Manchester Stadium for the Commonwealth Games.

Why were you awarded an MBE? I asked the Governor of Bermuda the same thing! His secretary explained that it was for services to the youth of Bermuda. I'd been organising soccer camps and suchlike since 1992.

What was the Queen like? Very polite. I had one burning question:"Are you a Red or a Blue?" She told me she supported everyone, and when I pressed her she just smiled, shook my hand and slightly pushed me away - it's the Queen's way of saying that while it's been nice meeting you, "Do one!"

Did you see Saturday's derby? Like thousands of City fans I was optimistic - each minute of the build-up I got more confident. But our mistakes won them the game. Maybe next time...

Shaun Goater's autobiography Feed The Goat is out now in hardback from Sutton Publishing, priced £17.99. To order a copy call 01963-442030.

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