AN international week. Honour for those called up and a delight for those left behind, provided you’re playing for the right club manager of course.
At Reading, Steve Coppell was great at giving the non-international playing squad a chance to recharge their batteries.
His one rule, which is pretty universal in football, was that no player could leave the country.
So after training on Friday my wife and I would jump in the car and go to Center Parcs until Sunday night, or a nice country hotel to relax.
It was never about going on the lash.
I needed regular breaks from football during the season because I could feel it smothering me at certain moments.
But at Stoke, Tony Pulis had a different take on international week.
As far as he was concerned it was an opportunity to get in some extra running and steal a march on rival clubs who had given their players time off.
That was a bit of a culture shock but in the long run I think it actually worked.
I wasn’t a fan of international week in regards to the effect that it had on training.
With the squad decimated there were only so many types of sessions a coach could put on.
And the standard was never as good, largely because it was filled with players who knew they weren’t going to play in the first team no matter what they did.
My own flirtations with international football were fairly colourful.
I once bumped into then Northern Ireland boss Lawrie Sanchez at a gym in Reading.
MY SECRET ENGLAND CALL-UP
He asked me if I’d play for Northern Ireland and wasn’t overly put off by my insistence that nobody on my family tree could be traced back to Northern Ireland at any point in the last millennium.
Later I took a call from the Irish FA who invited me to play for the Republic of Ireland. I politely declined.
I don’t consider myself Irish in any sense despite the fact I’ve travelled all over Ireland and love the country very much.
That made the Irish FA very unhappy.
The following day I took a call from Ireland manager Steve Staunton as I was running out the door to training.
He was very persistent and was imploring me to tell him that I’d at least think about it.
I had no intention of playing for Ireland but to get Steve off the phone I said I’d think about it.
As you’ve probably guessed, it turned out not to be Steve Staunton but an Irish journalist who ran a story calling me a mercenary for having said I wouldn’t play for Ireland and then saying I’d think about it.
It was an absolute stitch-up. Finally there was a chance to play for England.
I was the top English Premier League goalscorer by Christmas and as such Fabio Capello had added me to his squad.
A journalist friend had seen the squad list and asked for an exclusive interview for his Sunday paper before the Monday tabloids had a chance to get out their own interviews with me.
MOST READ IN FOOTBALL
Unfortunately I made the rash decision to celebrate my call-up with a couple of players and a few friends and managed to get myself arrested.
By the time the police released me from the cell in the morning the squad list had been revised.
And, true to Capello’s promise the England squad would have a new strict code of discipline under his tenure, my name had been removed.