The former Aston Villa trainee enjoyed loan spells at Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday before moving on to Hibernian and Blackpool. We sat down with the midfielder in January 2008.
The boys call me Ozzy – it couldn’t be anything else really.
Club supported as a boy
Growing up I was an Arsenal fan. I loved the football they played when Patrick Vieira was running the midfield.
I’m a modern-day midfielder – I’ve got a great engine and can win the ball and then run with it. I’m lucky that I’ve got some top players alongside me.
I need to work on my passing, I sometimes give the ball away. The gaffer is always hollering at me to get it back.
I play a bit like
People say I remind them of Patrick Vieira – a massive compliment. I like to think there are similarities in the way we play.
Getting my first start for Villa and playing against Manchester United in the FA Cup last season.
I started the game in midfield and had a one-on-one with Edwin van der Sar early on, which I botched. It was an amazing experience. I spent most of the game chasing shadows.
I don’t like not playing, so I’m never happy on the bench or when I get taken off. I’ve also had a few injuries, which is always frustrating, although thankfully, they seem to be clearing up.
It would have to be Gerrard and Alonso when we played Liverpool. We played them on the opening day and Gerrard’s movement and Alonso’s passing were just quality. You can’t help but learn when you’re playing against players like that. Mind you, it was a bit of a sucker punch when Gerrard scored that free-kick in the last five minutes.
Best player played with
Gareth Barry. Everyone’s been delighted that he’s doing the business for England – it’s a joke that he hasn’t got more caps. He’s great to play alongside but he’s not really a talker off the pitch – he never really says anything unless something, or someone, has really pissed him off. Nigel Reo-Coker has been a really good addition to the team, too.
My dad. He used to play football to quite a decent standard and knows everything about the game.
Best advice given
People always tell me to never get carried away but to me it feels like nothing has changed. Even though I’m getting games regularly for the first team I’m still the same guy I was at school – I’m still hanging out with the same people, and the only difference is the jobs we do.
Biggest practical joker
There’s two – Gabby Agbonlahor and Ashley Young. They’re a proper pair of jokers. There’s always something going on when those two are around. It’s a great dressing room – everyone’s up for a laugh.
I’m driving an Audi A3, but I’m picking up an Audi TT next week.
Rush Hour 3 – it cracked me up.
I’m a massive fan of The Simpsons. I think Homer’s hilarious.
If you hadn’t been a footballer
No idea. Growing up, all I ever wanted to do was play football. Hopefully it’s not something I’ll have to think about for a long time.
Describe yourself in five words
Erm... five words? How about domineering, power-hungry, positive and self-confident? That’s your lot.
With my first pay packet I bought
I think I bought two pairs of trainers. Nothing too crazy.
If I could play alongside any player
Patrick Vieira. I reckon no-one would get the ball off us.
Most embarrassing moment
I nearly scored an own goal against Wigan last season. The ball flicked off my head and hit the post.
In five years’ time
I’ll be flying high at Villa and hopefully knocking on the door of the England team.
From the January 2008 issue of FourFourTwo.