He failed to impress Stoke, Everton and Manchester City before finally performing for the coaches on a trial with Sheffield United. Back then, though, it was as a midfielder that he hoped to have a future.
"It was only in emergencies that I ever got asked to play at centre half," he told the Mail on Sunday. "And while I wouldn't necessarily say I'm a late developer, I guess I spent a long time in the Championship and for much of that time playing in midfield.
"It was only later on, under Neil Warnock, that I started playing regularly at the back. But I was there when we got promoted to the Premier League and even then I relished the challenge of coming up against the top players. I didn't feel intimidated. I always enjoyed it."