My own goal - Graham Rix

The former Arsenal and England player recalls leaving the big time to join the small French club Caen, where things were very different. Now 37 and coaching at Chelsea, he is preparing for their European Cup- Winners' Cup tie with Club Bruges this week

I WAS 30 and married with three kids and my career at Arsenal was obviously coming to an end. Because of injuries I'd played only about 23 games in two seasons under George Graham, who said I'd done well. But he knew that Arsenal weren't getting much return for the wages I was on so they offered me a free transfer.

I knew Sheffield Wednesday, Queen's Park Rangers and a few others were interested. I decided to go on holiday to Portugal with my family to think things over. I thought about the pull of going back home to Sheffield or staying where we were and joining QPR. Four days into my holiday I heard from an agent that a French club was interested. I was told it was Caen, who I'd not heard of, but I discovered they had reached the French first division for the first time. I didn't even know where Caen was.

So we came home. I met someone from the French club, who said they wanted a bit of experience to help them out. After half an hour I agreed to go there. So did Brian Stein. I'd always fancied playing in Europe, in fact it had always been a burning ambition. I'd had chances, but they'd always fallen through and I thought my chance had gone.

When I got there with Steiny, it was like a non-League ground.Everybody brought their own kit, which they had to buy themselves. I didn't have any kit because Arsenal was one of the biggest clubs in the world- you didn't have to think of things like that. They'd always provided me with everything I needed. I suppose it was refreshing, but I didn't appreciate it at the time.

For the first three months, Brian and myself stayed in a hotel. My wife and kids stayed in England because we couldn't find a house and I really wondered what I had done. We turned up for the first team talk not able to speak French - there hadn't been time for lessons. The French coach spoke at his normal speed and went on for 25 minutes. He was drawing diagram after diagram. Then, when he finished, he turned to me and Brian and said his only word of English, "umberstand?". He even got that wrong.

It got worse. Our first game was a pre-season friendly on tour against a Czech team. Afterwards, Brian and me changed and went into the bar and had a beer, as you would in England. All the others came in and drank water. They were saying things like "You not drink beer". Me and Steiny said: "Look we've been doing it for 15 years and we're not going to change now."

The coach pulled us to one side and said he appreciated how we influenced the others on the pitch but drinking beer was not good. Then he said that if we wanted we could carry on. After that he saw how we played and how hard we trained and by Christmas after every match he was bringing in crates of beer. "Be like the British," he said.

The beginning of the season had been dreadful. For the first time in French history, a club lost their first six games - ours. But it got better.

I'd say now that my three years in France were the best of my career, but in that first season we had to win our last three games to stay up. In the last match we were playing Bordeaux, with Cantona and Clive Allen, and at half-time we were 2-0 down. There was crying in the dressing-room but we won 3-2.

I grew to love that club and the people. They gave me the No 10 shirt, which is the real prize in French football. They really made me feel wanted. In the end it turned out to be the best decision I'd ever made.

Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Application Support Manager

£60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reigate...

** Secondary Geography Teacher Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

** Female PE Teacher Urgently Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £165 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

** Secondary Maths Teacher Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £165 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments