Manchester City and England defender Joleon Lescott talks to FourFourTwo all the way back in February 2001, when he was a teenager impressing for Wolves.
Haven't you heard? These days, centre-backs are the most expensive commodities in British football. Whilst Wolverhampton Wanderers' 18-year-old Joleon Lescott may be far more than a headed clearance away from Rio Ferdinand's new world of £18 million transfers, the Molineux prospect still has every right to personally view this season with equal importance.
"I was very happy at the start of the season when Keith Curle left," admits Lescott with a strong Midlands accent. "I used to clean his boots and he's always been great giving me pointers, but when he left, that gave me my chance." Joleon took it, impressing on a pre-season tour to Ireland and in friendlies against Premier League opposition. "I played well in those games. They still hadn't got a new centre-half in for the start of the season so I assumed I'd be starting."
That's exactly what he did, and he has caught the eye ever since with solid performances that have covered the loss of Curle to Sheffield United. Despite this good run in the first team, Wolves' manager Colin Lee has recently chosen to rest his young defender. Far from sulking, however, Lescott understands why. "Colin Lee has been really good with me," he says. "Everything he's done, he's always talked to me and told me why he's doing it. He said he was resting me from the first team games. I was getting very tired after games because you have to concentrate so much harder. I'm going to try hard to get back in though."
This mature attitude bodes well for Lescott's future, and hopefully for Wolves. For so long now their fans have hoped that each year will be the one, but after another inconsistent start will it be another season of disappointment? Lescott hopes not. "We've had a shaky start but we feel we can push for the play-offs," he says. "It's crazy, really. We can always play good football but we have to learn when to graft."
Like the Molineux faithful, Lescott wants Premiership football. "Hopefully I can do that in the next couple of years with Wolves. If not, and if I'm ready in a couple of years I'll have to move on, but I hope I'm with Wolves. I'm very happy here."
With centre-backs apparently worth big money these days, in a couple of years Lescott may well go for £20 million. He laughs at the suggestion: "You never know." That's right, Joleon – in this game, you never know.
[In 2009, Lescott moved from Everton to Manchester City for £22 million.]
Interview: Leo Moynihan. From the February 2001 issue of FourFourTwo.