Chris is also part of a football podcast called Undr The Cosh, with York City striker Jon Parkin and comedian Chris Brown, which can be found on Twitter @UndrTheCosh and on Acast etc.
Chris played for Sunderland between 2003 and 2007, playing 69 times for Sunderland and scoring 11 goals for his boyhood club.
Who were your football inspirations and heroes whilst growing up?
Chris: “When I first started going to Roker Park it’ll have been the likes of Don Goodman, Craig Russell and Phil Gray but then later on it has to be Kevin Phillips. I was really into my football at that age when Kev was playing for us, he was the number one when I was going to games at the Stadium of Light. Apart from Sunderland players, I loved Paul Gascoigne, mainly more for his personality.”
What are your first memories of football and going to the games?
Chris: “I think my first game I ever went to was at Roker Park and we beat Peterborough 3-0 and I think Phil Gray scored twice. I was only about seven or eight and my grandad used to take me to the games. I was in the Fulwell End, so I was tiny compared to everyone else, but I loved the atmosphere. I only wish I was a bit older to soak the atmosphere at Roker Park, I’d have loved for it to be around now as I was too young to remember it properly.”
How much of an influence was your dad in getting into playing football?
Chris: “Basically, he never pushed me and my two brothers, but we would play in the back garden and he’d chuck a ball for us to kick around. I was playing football from a very early age, but he never used to push me at all; he was always supportive when I was first starting out at Man United. My dad never got on my back, it was always in a different way, like he never game me any bollockings or anything and he would always get on my level.”
What did it mean to you to walk out and play for Sunderland that very first time?
Chris: “My debut was away to Crewe in the cup and I was immensely proud, but my proper debut was away to Leeds at Elland Road on a Friday night. We’d done alright but we weren’t great then we went onto beat them and the fact that it was away and Elland Road was packed out made it an unreal night.”
How did it feel to firstly score twice on your debut at Crewe and then for Sunderland in general?
Chris: “It was an unbelievable man! Firstly, I didn’t even know I was playing at Crewe so to then go on and score twice was fantastic, so I was still a bit in shock! My first at the Stadium was against Ipswich Town and Darren Carter squared it to me and I managed to score although I did my best to miss it looking back at it!”
What was Roy Keane like as a manager and how did you get on with him?
Chris: “He was sound with me to be honest, it took a while for some of the lads to work him out as sometimes you couldn’t tell if he was joking or not. We were 1-0 down at half time against Derby, in his first game and everyone thought he’d go ballistic and be grabbing people by the scruff of the neck! Instead he just came in the dressing room and said “you’ve all been brilliant and if you keep it up, I’ve no doubt we’ll win the game”. The other thing I’ll say about Keano is that he used to treat everyone equal, Dwight Yorke didn’t get different treatment from a young kid in the squad. He did used to lose his head a lot but that was just the kind of bloke he was; then you look at him at Ipswich and I’m unsure if he changed from the time he managed me at Sunderland.”
Moving onto Sunderland now, do you think we’ll be promoted this season and who will be the key players?
Chris: “Definitely, I said at the beginning that we were too strong for this league, as we’ve seen so far that the lads are just too good for teams. We’ve got a great group of lads and we need to go on a good run, which we’re on, and build momentum. As for standout players, Maguire and the goalkeeper have certainly been key, so far. Chris Maguire can produce something out of nothing; he loves a battle and League One games are a bit scrappy so he’ll be vital this season. The flare players like McGeady and Maja need someone else as they may get lost in those scrappy games and I think Maguire has the grit and determination to compete in games like that.”
As Sunderland take on Port Vale on Sunday, in the FA Cup, what are your memories of the tournament?
Chris: “I only played a couple of times for Sunderland in the cup but it’s a great chance for players in the lower leagues to play against Premier League players. When I was at Preston, we played Portsmouth and I was up against Sol Campbell and Sylvain Distin, that might’ve been my best game there – we got beat 1-0 in the end through a Darren Carter own goal in the dying minutes. Then when I played for Blackburn, we got to the quarter finals, even though I only played a couple of games on that run it was some experience; we took Liverpool to a replay at Anfield. That’s another thing for lower league players, it’s a great chance to play at some great grounds.”
What are your thoughts and score prediction for Sunday’s FA Cup clash?
Chris: “Port Vale will certainly be up for it as we’re inform, I’d have been more worried if we were to play them with last season’s squad. As I say, now we have a good, honest bunch of players and ultimately we’ll have too much quality for them and I think we’ll beat them 2-0.”
Finally, if you had to pick a starting 11 of SAFC players, you played alongside, who’d be in it?
Chris: “I’d have Darren Ward in goal, although Thomas Myhre was good, Nugsy out at right back, despite his best games being at centre half – there I'd have Gary Breen and Steven Caldwell and Danny Collins out at left back. In the middle I’d have Dean Whitehead and Leadbitter with Julio on the left and Liam Lawrence on the right. Up front, I’d probably put Stephen Elliott and Marcus Stewart.”
Thank you to Chris for taking the time to answer my questions and it was a pleasure, as usual, to speak to Browny. You can follow me on Twitter @ethan_thoburn, Chris on Twitter @browny159 and We Are Wearside on Twitter @WeAreWearside
Thanks for reading and I’ll be reviewing Port Vale away next week.